The Big Think

July 2, 2008

Diversity

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 4:28 pm

In September of 2000, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Idaho were both embarrassed when they were forced to admit that they had doctored promotional photographs to make their campuses look diverse. In both cases, non-white faces were added to real student photographs of all-white groups.

At the universities involved, officials insisted that they meant well, but just about everyone agreed that Photoshop diversity isn’t the real thing. But what if photos, even real photos of real live students, convey a false impression? . . .

The findings: Black students made up an average of 7.9 percent of students at the colleges studied, but 12.4 percent of those in viewbooks. Asian students are also more likely to be found in viewbooks than on campus, making up 3.3 percent of real students on average and 5.1 percent of portrayed students. . . . Looked at another way, he found that more than 75 percent of colleges appeared to overrepresent black students in viewbooks.

So why are black students more prevalent in viewbooks than on campus?

“Black equals diversity for many people. If you show African American students, people think that means your institution is diverse,” said Timothy D. Pippert, an assistant professor of sociology at Augsburg, who led the study. “They are defining diversity as that face.”

from this article.

My alma mater (Baylor University) is particularly guilty of this. One look through the alumni magazine would convince you that 50% of the campus is black, 25% of the campus is asian or hispanic, 10% is American indian or foreign born (the ubiquitous “other”, and the other 15% white. I challenge anyone to walk around campus and find a single non-white face in a thirty minute time span. Minorities are there, but they’re rare compared to white (majority female) students.

I’ve got no problem with diversity at schools- I like it. But the face that Baylor presents to the world in its media materials is laughingly inaccurate. It’s obvious to me or any of my friends who attended BU, and I always thought it was slightly dishonest. Nothing illegal about it, but it’s nice to see that the practice is getting some attention.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress