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Sunday, March 30, 2008
Universities Criticized for TV Spots Depicting Whiteness of Campuses
Brian Bourke and Michael S. Harris, both assistant professors of higher education at the University of Alabama, analyzed the 30-second television spots that 43 colleges aired during the 2006-7 Bowl Championship Series. Their paper, presented in New York last week at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, concluded that the overwhelming majority of the students an alumni depicted in the ads were white, and that the ads therefore send potential minority applicants the message that they will be tokens on campus.
A more in-depth discussion of the researchers' findings is available here on the Chronicle of Higher Education news blog. Noted by the blog item--and several of the readers who posted comments in response to it--is the tricky position that overwhelmingly white colleges find themselves in in producting such spots. Showing how few minority students are on their campus may indeed discourage minority students from applying, but if their ads exaggerate how much diversity is found on their campus they can be accused of dishonesty. Many minority students don't appreciate finding out after they enroll at a college that the place is not nearly as diverse as its recruitment materials led them to believe it would be.