Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Disseminating the Truth about Affirmative Action

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Disseminating the Truth about Affirmative Action

Article excerpt

A recent preliminary study conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln showed disturbing trends in the perceptions of prospective graduate students toward affirmative action and minority students. This investigation entailed in-depth interviews with self-identified Caucasian female undergraduates applying to graduate programs in psychology and psychology-related fields.

Respondents attributed a variety of false meanings to affirmative action policies in graduate school admissions. They ranged from benign associations, such as special funding opportunities for minority students, to more negative connotations such as the ideas of preferences, quotas, percentages and reserved slots for minority students. Furthermore, some respondents maintained that affirmative action policies adversely affected their graduate admissions into some departments. Specifically, these participants noted that although they were female, being Caucasian probably had a negative impact on their overall graduate admissions chances.

But perhaps more alarmingly, doubts about minority students' intellectual abilities and admissions qualifications emerged. When asked to report what thoughts came to mind if they were to notice that a minority student was experiencing academic difficulties, one participant replied:

"If I noticed that they [minority students] were doing sloppy work ... I would wonder how they got into the program considering they were supposed to take the top applicants ... I think that my perception would be that obviously the university really wanted minority students and that maybe they took somebody who was less qualified ... I mean the White student probably didn't get in because of their minority status ..."

It appears that some groups are prone to attributing minority students' academic difficulties to inferior intellectual qualifications. These negative attributions make it particularly difficult for minority students to establish their academic credibility, and may hinder majority students' willingness to engage in collegial working relationships with minority students.

The findings hold a number of implications for programs in higher education. …

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