National Institute on Aging

Survey of Dartmouth College Students Finds Widespread Support for Racial Diversity

dartmouth-picA new survey conducted by researchers at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, finds widespread support among the campus community for giving priority to members of underrepresented groups in faculty hiring and student admission decisions.

The researchers conducted two surveys: one on student admissions and one on faculty hiring. The surveys presented students with a series of side-by-side comparisons of two candidates, each classified by a randomly generated list of attributes, including race and gender as well as several others. Students were asked to pick one of the two candidates.

In the admissions survey, an African American or Native American undergraduate applicant held a 15 percentage-point advantage over a White applicant, and a Hispanic or Latino applicant had a 7 percentage-point advantage. In the faculty hiring survey, students preferred an African American candidate over a White applicant.

John Carey, the John Wentworth Professor in the Social Sciences at Dartmouth and a co-author of the study, stated “If you read just the popular press about this issue, the impression you could have easily come away with is that campuses are deeply divided on this. We didn’t find evidence of that.”

Lauren Martin, a Dartmouth senior who is also a co-author of the report, added that “our results taught me that Dartmouth students, on the whole, think representation in the classroom is important, that there is inherent value in diversity, and that even when our voices disagree and argue, there is also a great deal that we hold in common.”

While the results of the survey appear to be encouraging, a cynic would say that on today’s politically correct campuses, students are well aware of “what they are supposed to say” on issues of racial diversity.

Also, Dartmouth students may be more supportive of racial diversity in admissions since they have already been accepted and have enrolled at the university. Had they been asked if students from diverse backgrounds deserved an advantage in the admissions process before the survey respondents were accepted at Dartmouth, the results might have been different. The students surveyed may show a preference for the hiring of a hypothetical Black faculty member, but given the choice of registering for a class with a Black faculty member or a White faculty member, who would they choose?

In other words, stated opinions on racial diversity issues should be treated with a grain of salt, particularly when those surveyed will not be impacted by affirmative action or race-sensitive decision making.


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