Why were so many
California college faculty members in favor of affirmative action in 1995?
Only ONE THIRD of them (37% to be exact) even
knew what aa was!
And these are Americans going to colleges and universities. Imagine what the rest
of the population knew about it? Nothing?
Do you wonder why we scored DEAD LAST in TIMSS? A MAJOR law was destroying our
economy and our culture and two thirds of college students were oblivious to it.
First, affirmative action means granting preferences to women and certain racial and
ethnic groups. Second, affirmative action means promoting equal opportunities for all
individuals without regard to their race, sex, or ethnicity.
Which statement, the first or the second, comes closest to your own definition of
THE ROPER CENTER SURVEY
OF FACULTY OPINION ABOUT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
Sponsored by the California Association of Scholars
Conducted December 7-19, 1995
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FACULTY SURVEY VINDICATES THE ABOLITION
OF RACIAL AND GENDER PREFERENCES
BY THE U.C. BOARD OF REGENTS
Berkeley, California, January 15, 1996 A telephone survey of 1,000 faculty members chosen
at random at the nine campuses of the University of California which was conducted last
month by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut
vindicates the abolition of racial and gender preferences by the U.C. Board of Regents.
The survey, the first of its kind in higher education, was sponsored by the California
Association of Scholars, an organization of faculty members, administrators, trustees, and
advanced graduate students at private and public colleges throughout the state with its
headquarters in Berkeley, California.
The December, 1995 Roper Center survey found that a wide plurality of faculty at the
University of California favors a policy of providing equal opportunity without resorting
to racial and gender preferences. Voting members of the academic senates at U.C. were
asked whether they favored granting preferences to women and certain racial and ethnic
groups, or whether they favored promoting equal opportunities in these areas without
regard to an individual's race, sex, or ethnicity. Forty eight percent favored the latter
policy; only 31 percent favored the granting of racial and gender preferences.
The preferred policy is virtually identical with that recently adopted by the U.C. Board
of Regents. On July 20, 1995, the Regents of the University of California voted on two
resolutions. Section 2 of the first resolution (SP-1) said, "Effective January 1,
1997, the University of California shall not use race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, or
national origin as criteria for admission to the University of California or to any
program of study." Section 9 of SP-1 said, "Believing California's diversity to
be an asset, we adopt this statement:
BECAUSE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF ALL OF CALIFORNIA'S DIVERSE RACES HAVE THE INTELLIGENCE
AND CAPACITY TO SUCCEED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, THIS POLICY WILL ACHIEVE A UC
POPULATION THAT REFLECTS THIS STATE'S DIVERSITY THROUGH THE PREPARATION AND EMPOWERMENT OF
ALL STUDENTS IN THIS STATE TO SUCCEED RATHER THAN THROUGH A SYSTEM OF ARTIFICIAL
PREFERENCES." THIS RESOLUTION PASSED BY A 14-10 VOTE.
Section 1 of the second resolution (SP-2) said, "Effective January 1, 1996, the
University of California shall not use race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, or national
origin as a criterion in its employment and contracting practices." This resolution
passed by a 15-10 vote.
SP-2, which governs employment and contracting practices at the University of California,
went into effect on January 1 of this year. SP-1 will take effect on January 1, 1997. The
University is currently exploring ways to foster equal opportunity and access to the
university without resorting to racial and ethnic preferences. Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien
of U.C. Berkeley, in a widely applauded move, has pledged $1 million of U.C. Berkeley's
funds to outreach efforts which will identify promising secondary school students
throughout the state and prepare them for admission to the University. Educationally and
economically disadvantaged students will be eligible for this program regardless of their
race, sex, or ethnicity.
ROPER POLL CONFIRMS EARLIER, BUT LESS RIGOROUS, SURVEYS OF FACULTY OPINION ON
The Roper/CAS-sponsored poll is the first in higher education to apply state-of-the-art
sampling methodology to the study of faculty opinion. To the best of our knowledge, all
earlier studies of faculty opinion on this and other matters have relied on responses by
faculty to mailed questionnaires with lower response rates. Nevertheless, the findings of
earlier studies are consistent with those of the recently completed Roper study.
An important nation-wide survey of faculty opinion was conducted in 1975 by the Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This study showed strong opposition to
preferential policies in faculty hiring and promotions and in student admissions. When
respondents in this study were asked how their University should respond to
underrepresentation by women and minorities on the faculty and among their graduate and
professional students, roughly 80% favored either 1) making special efforts to find more
women and minority candidates, but giving no preference in appointment, or 2) making
appointments without any regard to race or sex.
Unfortunately, more recent surveys by the Carnegie Foundation have included fewer items
addressing affirmative action and diversity issues than in the 1975 survey. However, these
more recent studies provide some inferential evidence that faculty opposition to
preferential policies has changed very little in the intervening years, because the two
items from the 1975 survey which were repeated in the more recent 1989 survey of faculty
opinion by the Carnegie Foundation produced very similar results.
A 1991 study by Alexander Astin, Jesus G. Trevino and Tamara L. Wingard of the Higher
Education Research Institute at UCLA (The UCLA campus climate for diversity: findings from
a campus wide survey conducted for the Chancellor's Council on Diversity) found broad
support for the idea of promoting diversity, but it also found that a significant
percentage of the campus community had misgivings about many aspects of the university's
diversity program. Nearly half of the campus respondents, on average, felt that the campus
climate would be improved if the university abandoned preferential admissions policies.
This and similar findings led the authors of this study (each of whom is a strong advocate
of preferential policies in higher education) to caution the university against the
aggressive pursuit of preferential policies, particularly in the area of undergraduate
admissions. As the authors said:
UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS IS ONE ISSUE WHICH CLEARLY DIVIDES PRACTICALLY ALL SEGMENTS OF
THE UCLA COMMUNITY. THERE ARE SHARP DIVISIONS, FOR EXAMPLE, WITHIN STAFF, STUDENT, AND
FACULTY RESPONDENT GROUPS AS TO THE DESIRABILITY OF AN ADMISSIONS POLICY WHICH TAKES INTO
ACCOUNT THE STUDENT'S RACE OR ETHNICITY. VERY FEW RESPONDENTS ARE NEUTRAL ON THIS
ISSUE...CONSIDERING HOW DEEP THE DIVISION IS ON THE ADMISSIONS ISSUE WITHIN THE UCLA
COMMUNITY, WE ARE NOT OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE PROSPECTS FOR A QUICK SOLUTION TO THE
PROBLEM...CONSIDERING THE WIDESPREAD CONSENSUS THAT WAS REACHED ON SO MANY OTHER CRITICAL
ISSUES AND PROPOSALS WE FEEL THAT IT WOULD BE A MAJOR MISTAKE TO FOCUS A DISPROPORTIONATE
SHARE OF OUR CAMPUS ENERGIES ON THE ADMISSIONS ISSUE, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE SAME ENERGIES
CAN BE CHANNELLED INTO CONSTRUCTIVE AND POSITIVE ACTION PROGRAMS MORE OR LESS IMMEDIATELY.
(THE UCLA CAMPUS CLIMATE FOR DIVERSITY, P. 180.)
The UCLA study found evidence of a strong commitment by faculty, students, and
administrators to diversity in the abstract. Over 90 percent of the campus community, on
the average, agreed that "Diversity is good for UCLA and should be actively promoted
by students, staff, faculty, and administrators." The study also found significant
support for policies designed to promote diversity where there are no clear winners and
losers. There was, for example, considerable support for the following kinds of programs:
(1) having more events on campus that bring together different racial and ethnic groups;
(2) involving more UCLA students in tutoring Los Angeles inner-city children; (3) having
more art exhibits or music festivals featuring different racial/ethnic groups; (4)
including more issues of diversity in student orientations; (5) conducting
"teach-ins" on diversity issues etc. Such programs appear to be regarded by the
campus community as non-zero-sum game proposals for fostering diversity. However, the UCLA
study, like the December, 1995 Roper survey, found a significant drop-off in support for
affirmative action plans that involves preferences-i.e., wherever there are clear winners
"USING RACE AND SEX AS A CRITERION" VERSUS OPPOSITION TO RACIAL AND GENDER
The December, 1995 Roper Center telephone survey found that the faculty at the University
of California favors non-race and non-gender based policies, but only if these are
conjoined with a commitment to promoting diversity and equal opportunity by other means.
The first two items of the survey asked for respondents' views about the policy embodied
in Regents' resolutions SP-1 and SP-2 prohibiting the use of race, sex, or ethnicity as
criteria in university admissions, employment, and contracting, but without mentioning any
commitment by the university to promoting equal opportunity by other means i.e., without
any reference to Section 9 of SP-1, which reaffirmed the university's long-standing
commitment to promoting diversity.
The first item asked, "Do you favor or oppose using race, religion, sex, color,
ethnicity, or national origin as a criterion for admission to the University of
California?" A bare majority (52%) favored using these as criteria when the option of
pursuing equal opportunity and diversity by other means was not presented as an option.
Even so, there was significant opposition even to this way of phrasing the question. About
one-third (34%) flatly rejected the use of these factors in admissions. This 18 percentage
point margin dropped to 8 points (47 percent favor and 39 percent oppose) when faculty
were polled about the use of these criteria for employment and contracting practices at
the University of California.
Since the Regent's decision on July 20, 1995 has attracted considerable national and even
international attention, the Roper Center made the decision to use the exact language of
SP-1 and SP-2 in the first two items of its questionnaire. Nevertheless, the language of
SP-1 and SP-2 is not typical of most polling on this question, which usually phrases the
question in terms of support or opposition to the granting of racial and gender
preferences. (No direct reference to preferences is found in SP-1 and SP-2, though such a
reference is found in Section 9 of SP-1, which commits the university to promoting racial
and ethnic diversity without resorting to "a system of artificial preferences.")
It is likely that the responses to the first two items of the survey would have been
significantly different if they had been phrased in terms of the granting of preferences.
The latter is the terminology that is typically found in the law and in most polling on
this issue. Extensive polling since the late 1960s has shown widespread opposition to the
granting of preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity in the general
population, even when the granting of such preferences is framed in a positive light in
the question itself (e.g., even when preferential treatment is presented to respondents as
an effort to compensate for past discrimination against certain groups). Typically,
approximately 70% of respondents say that they are opposed to preferential treatment on
the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity for any reason.
The Roper poll has shown that the great majority of faculty at U.C. believes that racial
and gender diversity should be a goal of university policy. This makes it likely that a
clear majority of faculty will reject any failure or refusal by the university to
"take race and sex into consideration as a criterion" in any way. However, it
may not be immediately apparent to respondents that the use of race, sex, or ethnicity as
a criterion for decision making in particular instances necessarily involves racial
discrimination, and that the policy that they actually favor is that of pursuing diversity
without actually preferring or discriminating on this basis.
The dangers of using phraseology in public opinion research that does not clearly force a
decision about preferences (and therefore about discrimination) was highlighted recently
by a national survey of 240,000 freshmen which was conducted by the Higher Education
Research Institute at UCLA. The study, which was released on January 8, 1996, found that,
although 70 percent of students surveyed support giving "special consideration"
to race in college admissions, 50 percent said that they believe affirmative action should
be abolished. And although 70.6 percent of the students surveyed support special
consideration for blacks, only slightly fewer69.3 percents aid whites deserve the same
This finding demonstrates with particular clarity the dangers of survey research that uses
the more equivocal language of "taking into consideration" and "using as a
criterion." As a matter of simple logic, one cannot give "special
consideration" to every individual of a given set. This rather obvious logical point
apparently eluded even this year's entering freshmen at America's colleges and
universities. It is, however, even harder to miss the point that one cannot prefer someone
on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity without discriminating against someone else on
that basis. That is why the language of preferences is the preferred terminology for
public opinion research on this issue. As the responses to item 3 show, faculty at U.C.,
like most Americans, balk at the granting of preferential treatment to individuals on the
basis of their race, sex, or ethnicity and it is the granting of racial and gender
preferences which is at the heart of the controversy about affirmative action within the
university and elsewhere.
HOW DOES THE FACULTY USE THE TERM 'AFFIRMATIVE ACTION', AND WHAT KIND OF AFFIRMATIVE
ACTION DOES IT FAVOR?
The Roper survey shows that it is unwise to use the term "affirmative action" in
polling on this issue. Roper found that this term means very different things to different
faculty members. The divergences are so marked that the term appears to have no standard
or common meaning in faculty discourse.
In the Roper survey, faculty were asked to express how they use the term "affirmative
action" by choosing which one of the following statements best summarizes their own
definition of the term: "Affirmative action means granting preferences to women and
certain racial and ethnic groups," or "Affirmative action means promoting equal
opportunity for all individuals without regard to their race, sex, or ethnicity." The
study found marked divergences in the way faculty use this term. Forty-three percent (43%)
of the faculty said that promoting equal opportunity for all individuals rather than
granting preferences comes closer to their definition of the term. Thirty seven percent
(37%) said that granting preferences to women and certain racial and ethnic groups comes
closer to their definition of the term.
ROPER'S FINDINGS RAISE TROUBLING QUESTIONS ABOUT GOVERNANCE BY U.C. ADMINISTRATION AND
HIGHER EDUCATION ORGANIZATIONS GENERALLY
The Roper Center survey demolishes the claim that the faculty at U.C. wants preferential
policies. Faculty members at the university clearly don't want the university to be
indifferent to diversity concerns, but they also prefer affirmative action in the original
sense: promoting and ensuring equal opportunity in admissions, employment, and contracting
without regard to an individual's race, sex, or ethnicity. This favored alternative is
identical with the policy which the U.C. Board of Regents adopted on July 20 of last year.
That policy abolishes racial and gender preferences at the University of California in
admissions, employment, and contracting, while affirming the university's commitment to
the pursuit of diversity through means other than the use of "artificial
It is startling to compare these survey findings with recent official policy statements on
affirmative action by the university and by virtually every representative body within the
university. The divergences, which are very stark, raise very troubling questions about
the extent to which internal governance mechanisms within the university have failed
rather dramatically to accurately reflect faculty opinion on one of the most important
public policy issues of our time.
To judge by the official position of the University before the Regent's vote, and by
statements and policy positions by virtually every official body within the university
both before and after the vote, no impartial observer would even suspect that any
significant portion of the faculty actually favors the abolition of racial and gender
preferences. When the policy change was first proposed by some members of the Board of
Regents, the University could have seized the occasion to engage in a searching and
thoughtful debate on the issue one that was long overdue. Instead, the well-entrenched
advocates of the challenged policy chose to circle the wagons.
The appearance of unanimous opposition to the Regent's policy by all bodies claiming to
represent the University and faculty opinion within it has been virtually complete. In an
unprecedented move, the outgoing President of the University, Jack Peltason, together with
all nine chancellors, publicly rejected the Regents' policy initiative, essentially
challenging the Regents' authority to bring the university in line with public sentiment
and the direction of developing law on this issue, and in response to questioning by the
Regents about existing policies, the University stonewalled and prevaricated. Two months
before the Regents' vote, the university released a study of the probable impact of the
proposed policy change that was so flawed it elicited a scathing column from normally
restrained (and liberal) writer Peter Schrag of the McClatchy Papers. "The 'analysis'
University of California officials submitted to the regents last week regarding
affirmative action in UC admissions piles confusion on misdirection," Schrag said.
"Rather than the impartial report it's represented to be, it's a clumsy defense of
existing race preferences. It combines straw-man comparisons with statements so internally
contradictory they make your head spin" (Orange County Register, May 26, 1995).
The University took the official line that it used race as only one of many factors in
admissions decisions. Anyone who was familiar with U.C.'s admissions procedures knew that
on some campuses and in some professional schools this was widely at variance with the
facts, and critics of the policies quickly provided data demonstrating that the claim was
false. Information that was publicly available to the critics through the university
itself showed, for example, that individuals of one particular ethnicity were admitted at
one of U.C.'s medical schools at 19 times the rate of applicants of another ethnicity,
even though the former were significantly less qualified on the basis of academic
criteria. (Investors Business Daily, March 21, 1995, "Making California
Advocates of preferential policies, who typically claim to speak on behalf of the entire
faculty, continue to work tirelessly to overturn the Regents' decision. Jerome Karabel,
professor of sociology at U.C. Berkeley, has spear headed two faculty drives, the first in
defense of the preferential policies the Regent's decision rescinded, the second
protesting the decision on procedural grounds. A committee of the American Association of
University Professors (AAUP), whose genesis is somewhat murky, but which nevertheless
claims to speak on behalf of all of the organization's 44,000 members, was recently formed
to investigate the Regents' decision in the light of the AAUP's "long standing
commitment to affirmative action," and to take a "hard look at the way in which
political pressures are intruding into traditional institutional governance
practices." This seven-member committee includes committee chair Joan Wallach Scott,
Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Robert
Atwell, outgoing President of the American Council on Education. The committee has said
that it will issue a report on the matter sometime before May, 1996.
To our knowledge, none of these official bodies or self-appointed spokespersons for the
professorate has ever shown any interest in ascertaining in a scientific manner the actual
views of the members or organizations for which they claim to speak. Nor is this just a
matter of a demonstrated lack of interest in finding new evidence: it extends to ignorance
about, or indifference to, the research evidence that has been available for some time. It
is true that past studies have not utilized random sampling techniques, and are
methodologically weak for that reason. At the very least, however, the previous findings
should have suggested caution. If advocates of preferential policies who claim to speak on
behalf of others know of research evidence which is at variance with the findings of the
December, 1995 Roper survey, they should make this information widely available.
It is likely that the disparity between faculty opinion and official statements simply
confirms what is commonplace for students of organizational behavior that any organization
can be controlled by ten percent of its members, provided they are sufficiently determined
and well-organized. For twenty years or more, no one has been appointed to any
administrative position of importance in the university who has not been prepared to
publicly endorse race- and gender-based preferential policies, or at least to remain
silent about any reservations or doubts he or she may have had about them. As a result of
this history, there is presently in the University a large "affirmative action"
bureaucracy with an enormous amount of power.
While faculty senates pass resolutions which purport to represent the views of the entire
faculty, the meetings of the senates are usually sparsely attended, and often only by
those whose strong interests in the outcomes make them rather unrepresentative of the
university community as a whole. This has been true of the university for many years. The
same phenomenon was noted twenty-five years ago by Professor John Searle of U.C. Berkeley
in his book on the campus wars of the 1960s:
THE STRIKING THING [ABOUT FACULTY MEETINGS AROUND CONTENTIOUS ISSUES] IS THE EXTENT TO
WHICH A SMALL GROUP OF REALLY DETERMINED LEFT-WING FACULTY WHO KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT
AND ARE PREPARED TO SEIZE THE RHETORICAL INITIATIVE AND FIGHT FOR WHAT THEY WANT, CAN
EXERT AN INFLUENCE WILDLY DISPROPORTIONATE EITHER TO THEIR OWN NUMBERS OR THE SIZE OF
THEIR CONSTITUENCY IN THE FACULTY. (THE CAMPUS WAR, NEW YORK: THE WORLD PUBLISHING
COMPANY, 1971, PP. 147-148.)
What Searle observed about the university twenty years ago prefigured what has come to be
known in more recent times as "political correctness." Today, after their long
march through the institutions, important bastions of power within the university have
been captured by those who proclaim that everything, including the personal, is political;
ironically, these faculty members now accuse anyone who dares to challenge them of
politicizing the university. There has been an abject failure on the part of the
university to accurately reflect faculty opinion in today's political climate, which makes
many faculty clearly reluctant to speak out. The faculty needs fewer change agents
dedicated to telling their colleagues what they ought to think on controversial matters of
public policy, and more who simply wish to accurately reflect, articulate, and represent
SCIENTIFIC POLLING AND ITS POTENTIAL IMPACT ON SOME DEEPLY CONTESTED ISSUES IN HIGHER
The CAS believes that the Roper Center survey which it has sponsored has introduced a
powerful tool with potentially wide applications in higher education. Such studies should
be within the financial reach of many faculty and alumni organizations at other large
colleges and universities, both public and private, who may share the CAS' interest in
determining faculty opinion at their institutions in a scientifically rigorous way. The
survey research method may be of particular interest to organizations like the recently
formed National Alumni Forum in Washington, D.C. (phone 202.467.6787), one of whose chief
purposes is to persuade alumni and university governing boards to support academic
programs and institutions that it believes are worthy of support.
The Roper survey has demonstrated that modern polling can be used to determine faculty
opinion accurately and relatively cheaply. For too long, the academy has had as its most
publicly visible spokespersons those whose claim to represent faculty opinion fairly and
accurately has always been questionable. These days may soon be over.
EXACT WORDING OF ROPER CENTER QUESTIONNAIRE ITEMS; RESPONSES
For further details contact The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, University of
Connecticut, (203) 486-4634 Sample size: n=1,001; cooperation rate 80+ percent; margin of
1. "Do you favor or oppose using race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, or national
origin as a criterion for admission to the University of California?"
2. "Do you favor or oppose using race, religion, sex, color, ethnicity, or
national origin as a criterion in employment and contracting practices at the University
3. "I'd like to read two statements. Please tell me which one best describes the
policy you believe the University of California should pursue.
First, the University should grant preferences to women and certain racial and ethnic
groups in admissions, hiring and promotions.
Second, the University should promote equal opportunities in these areas without regard to
an individual's race, sex, or ethnicity.
Which statement, the first or the second, describes the policy you think the University
4. "The term 'affirmative action' has different meanings to different people. I'm
going to read two definitions of the term 'affirmative action.' Please tell me which one
best describes what you mean by the term.
First, affirmative action means granting preferences to women and certain racial and
Second, affirmative action means promoting equal opportunities for all individuals without
regard to their race, sex, or ethnicity.
Which statement, the first or the second, comes closest to your own definition of
BREAKDOWN OF RESPONDENTS BY CAMPUS:
BREAKDOWN OF RESPONDENTS BY RANK:
BREAKDOWN OF RESPONDENTS BY SEX: