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SFSU Public Affairs Press Release

Published by the Public Affairs Office at San Francisco State University, Diag Center.

#027--October 6, 1998; For immediate release
Embargoed for 10 AM, October 6

Contact: Ligeia Polidora
Phone: 415/338-1665
Sarah Varela

Californians See Many Benefits To Diversity In College Education, Finds First-Ever Statewide Poll On The Issue

San Francisco State University to Sponsor Panels on
Diversity in Higher Education and Role of Media in Shaping Race Relations

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Two-thirds of California voters say it is very important that colleges prepare graduates to get along in a diverse society. Slightly more than half (51 percent) say every college graduate should have to study different cultures. By a margin of more than three to one, those who have an opinion say that diversity programs in colleges and universities raise rather than lower academic standards. Nearly three in five Californians (56 percent) think our nation is growing apart, and 71 percent think diversity programs on college campuses help bring society together.

Those are among the conclusions of the first-ever statewide poll on diversity in higher education, conducted by Daniel Yankelovich’s firm, DYG, Inc., for the Ford Foundation’s American Colleges and Universities, joined leaders from six Bay Area higher education institutions to release the findings today at a morning news conference. The telephone poll of 2,011 registered voters including an oversampling of 200 California voters was conducted July 14 to August 4, 1998. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percent. Forty-six percent of respondents self-identified as either "very conservative" politically or "more conservative than liberal."

Speakers are the news conference included Clifford Attkisson, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Academic Affairs and Dean of Graduate Studies, University of California at San Francisco; Robert A. Corrigan, President, San Francisco State University; James Middleton, President, College of Marin; Genaro Padilla, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Affairs, University of California-Berkeley; Linda Graef Salter, President, Skyline College; and Reverend John P. Schlegel, President, University of San Franci sco.

"This poll is the first time that we have something that confirms what we've always believed to be true," said President Corrigan. "One, that it's important to have diversity programs, and that essentially Americans believe in it. And time after time, when you look at that poll what you see is, given a choice, what the people polled are saying is that we think diversity is important."

"Diversity education – the history, ideas and issues we explore in the classroom; the campus activities for students and community; and the faces we see on our campuses – are central to our mission as a community college," said President Middleton. "The needs for diverse education will only increase as we recognize what community means in our future- the distinctive multiculturalism of California, growing global interdependence, and communication technology's erasing distance barriers."

Later today, San Francisco State is also sponsoring a series of campus-community forums about race and the media. The day-long program features a talk by noted African American scholar Manning Marable of Columbia University and a panel with leading experts on race and the media. All events are taking place in Jack Adams Hall in the Student Center at San Francisco State.

These events are among a nationwide series of activities taking place this month as part of the Racial Legacies and Learning: An American Dialogue initiative conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) with support from The Ford Foundation. The initiative strives to prepare graduates to address the legacies of racism and the opportunities for racial reconciliation in the United States. The University of California at Berkeley is planning to hold events later in the month.

"Everyone is aware that we live in an increasingly diverse world," said Carol Christ, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at the University of California - Berkeley. "The state of California will have no majority population in the 21st Century. Clearly an education is more valuable if it enables students to work in a diverse environment."

"It is now standard in our American culture to embrace the popular art, food and accoutrements of various cultures," said President Salter. "It remains a challenge and a greater reward for us to take advantage of our gift of diversity to work toward an understanding of the cultural heritage, values and perspectives of the variety of people who will be our coworkers, our neighbors, and our in-laws."

Other findings from the DYG, Inc. poll revealed that:
Nearly all (96 percent) of Californians agree that, "in the next generation , people will need to get along with people who are not like them."
Just one in four Californians say the nation is doing a good of preparing itself to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
By a margin of nearly four to one, respondents say that diversity education does more to bring society together (71 percent) than drive society apart (18 percent). Ninety percent agree that "our society is multicultural and the more we know about each other, the better we will get along."

Clear majorities say that:
-- diversity on campus has a more positive (69 percent) than negative (23 percent) effect on the general atmosphere on college campuses;
-- having a diverse student body has a more positive (70 percent) than negative (20 percent) effect on the education of students;
-- among the national sample of voters polled, two-thirds (66 percent) say colleges and universities should take explicit steps to ensure diversity in the student body.

Six in ten (63 percent) say that courses and campus activities emphasizing diversity have more of a positive than negative effect on the education of college students.

More than three in four (77 percent) agree that "a lot of important information about various cultures in the United States has been overlooked by college faculty in the past." Eighty-six percent of respondents support offering courses in business schools on managing a diverse work force.

One in three respondents (37 percent) say that "diversity education is nothing more than political correctness, which hinders true education." Nearly six in ten (59 percent) agree that "diversity education always seems to have a liberal political agenda."

"Since 1991, the University of San Francisco has taken decisive and aggressive steps in becoming a more culturally diverse and inclusive institution," said Reverend Schlegel. "For me and for USF, the quest to build an inclusive community is fundamentally connected to our mission, values and purpose. We strive for diversity because it is right thing to do at this time. The benefits coming from an inclusive community are both enriching and pragmatic."

"The results of this survey reflect that there is general understanding that universities must be culturally and socially diverse in order to serve fundamental needs of society and the economy," said Dr. Attkisson. "In this increasingly global economy, institutions of higher education are challenged now more than ever to educate individuals who can work collaboratively, work in institutions with fluid boundaries, and work creatively in the context of social and cultural differences."

"The Ford Foundation has long supported diversity in higher education," said Edgar Beckham, who coordinates the Ford Foundation’s Campus Diversity Initiative. "At a time when critics are vocal, it is gratifying to know that people see value in classes and programs that teach students about their own and other cultures. People are alarmed by growing divisions in our society and recognize that, in the long term, diversity education can promote unity and help heal those divisions."


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