American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity Statement on The Gallup Opinion Poll on Affirmative Action

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Association takes issue with July 8th Opinion Poll on Affirmative Action and calls it “Misleading and Inaccurate”

As in any opinion poll, if the wording of the poll is biased, the results will be as well.

The American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity (AAAED), an association of equal opportunity, affirmative action, diversity and human resources professionals, has taken issue with an opinion poll’s results published by Inside Higher Ed (IHE) on July 8, 2016. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/07/08/poll-finds-public-opposition-considering-race-and-ethnicity-college-admissions

The article is titled “Poll: Public Opposes Affirmative Action.” This poll was released on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, where the plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, claimed that the University violated the Constitution by using race as a factor in admitting students. Ms. Fisher failed to gain admission. The Court held in favor of the University.

In a letter to Inside Higher Ed dated July 13, 2016, AAAED wrote:

“At issue is the way the questions were presented, which yielded the predictable results. 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….?’” http://affirmact.blogspot.com/2016/07/july-13-2016-scott-jaschik-editor.html

The Association’s letter stated: “The decision is never race vs. merit. Selective colleges and universities have for decades considered a number of factors including test scores and grades. Geography, athletics, musical ability and other talents, socio-economic status, legacies, being first generation college-going, or extra-curricular activities are examples of these factors.”

"Race is also not simply a matter of skin color and is an equally valid consideration as is athletic ability or socio-economic status," added AAAED Executive Director Shirley J. Wilcher. The letter states: Race “reflects experiences as members of minority groups, like, e.g., being profiled by police or subjected to sub-standard schools.”

The letter continued: “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. 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.”

The Association also took issue with the description of the Fisher case, suggesting that race was a primary factor. “The Supreme Court has been scrupulous in ruling that race should not be used as a quota or part of a point system and that a review of students must be done in a holistic manner.” In the Fisher case, race was deemed by Justice Kennedy to be “a factor of a factor of a factor.”

Lastly, previous polls have concluded that the public generally supports affirmative action.

"In polls preceding the IHE-Gallup Poll, the results indicated that the majority of Americans actually support affirmative action. For example, the 2014 Pew Research Center Poll asked: “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?” The results showed that 63% of respondents found that affirmative action was a 'good thing.'" http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/22/public-strongly-backs-affirmative-action-programs-on-campus/

The Association asserts that the July 8 Gallup poll on affirmative action is “misleading and inaccurate.” “As in any opinion poll, if the wording of the poll is biased, the results will be as well.”

For a copy of the AAAED letter, go to http://affirmact.blogspot.com/2016/07/july-13-2016-scott-jaschik-editor.html or email: execdir(at)aaaed(dot)org.
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, et al., US Supreme Court, No. 14–981
Decided June 23, 2016

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Shirley J. Wilcher

Marilyn Schuyler
@affirmativeact
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