Following the release of a Gallup poll concluding that a majority of Americans disagree with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin to uphold the university’s use of race-conscious admissions policies, the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity (AAAED) expressed its dissatisfaction, calling the poll “misleading and inaccurate.”
In a July 13 letter to Inside Higher Ed — which collaborated with Gallup to draft questions for the poll — AAAED wrote that it took issue with how the questions were worded, saying this led to the predictable results.
The letter reads, “The primary question posed is: ‘Which comes closer to your view about evaluating students for admission into a college or university — applicants should be admitted solely on the basis of merit, even if that results in few minority students being admitted…?’”
AAAED argued that the decision to admit a student has never been based solely on race versus merit, explaining that colleges and universities have historically considered a range of factors when making admissions decisions.
“It would be vastly preferable if … members of the news media would portray the panoply of admissions factors that are routinely used and not set up this duality that forces respondents to choose,” AAAED said in its letter. “Selective colleges and universities can undoubtedly fill their student bodies with individuals having perfect scores and grades. They choose not to because they want a diversity of abilities, potential, and talent to enrich the educational experience.”
Executive Director of AAAED Shirley J. Wilcher pointed out that race is more than a matter of skin color “and is an equally valid consideration, as is athletic ability or socioeconomic status.” The letter also stated that race “reflects experiences as members of minority groups, like … being profiled by police or subjected to sub-standard schools.”
Additionally, AAAED pointed out that previous polls have shown Americans’ support for affirmative action; in 2014, a Pew Research Center poll found that 63 percent of Americans regarded affirmative action as a “good thing” when posed as this question: “In general, do you think affirmative action programs designed to increase the number of black and minority students on college campuses are a good thing or a bad thing?”
“As in any opinion poll,” AAAED’s letter reads, “if the wording of the poll is biased, the results will be as well.”
A copy of the letter can be found here.