Do University Promotional Videos Portray an Inaccurate Assessment of Race?

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama examined the television advertisements produced by 43 predominantly white colleges and universities which were used to promote the schools during sports coverage of football games last fall. The study found that whites were overwhelmingly depicted in campus scenes in these advertisements. The study found that typically one black student was shown in a group of four or five white students. Alumni featured in these advertisements were typically white and financially well-off.

The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, concluded, “With the use of people of color as token display pieces in their advertisements, these institutions communicate to any would-be students of color that their experiences will be marked by tokenism.” The authors continue, “The message that these advertisements send to potential students does untold damage to the public missions of these institutions to increase access among all populations.”

At most of the large universities studied, black students make up less than 20 percent of the student body. So the fact that a black student is shown with four or five white students is actually an accurate portrayal of the racial demographics on campus, if not the social interactions between the races that occur on these campuses.

One wonders if the authors believe that it would be better to show a university cafeteria with all the black and white students sitting at self-segregated tables?