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Project to determine student attitudes toward diversity

By Ariel Serafin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
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A two-month preliminary study in part of a four-year analysis of modern-day students will offer the UA community a glimpse into student attitudes and feelings toward diversity.

The Department of Multicultural Programs and Services, in conjunction with the Dean of Students Office, is sponsoring the "Millennial Project," a study and assessment of undergraduate students' thoughts and feelings about diversity.

Data gathering for the study began in February and will be completed mid-April.

Gary Cruz, assistant director of research and assessment for the Department of Multicultural Programs and Services, said the intent of the study was to understand the behaviors, attitudes and perceptions of the "Millennial Student" in regards to diversity.

Cruz said much of modern day literature suggests today's students are open-minded and accepting of diversity.

In order to assess students, researchers invited more than 5,000 undergraduates to answer survey questions about diversity. Afterwards, the students attended focus groups to discuss topics such as racial, sexual and gender perceptions.

Since the study is ongoing, only about 11 percent of the completed surveys have been returned to researchers. No statistics or other information about the data is available to students as the project is "very preliminary," Cruz said.

The data will be released at the end of the survey since it is a controlled study and releasing results early could potentially change the outcome, Cruz said.

The topic of diversity on the UA campus differs, with a variety of student opinions about how diverse the UA campus is and how tolerant students are of others.

Ori Foger, a business management junior, said seeing the UA's lack of diversity is as simple as taking a walk around campus.

"No, the campus isn't diverse," Foger said. " I'd be curious to see what the actual percentage is, but most kids I see are white Americans. It's actually very, very not diverse."

Foger also said UA students pretend to be more tolerant than they really are.

"Students are accepting to an extent," Foger said. "They accept (diversity) in principle and in theory but not in their own bedrooms or households."

Andrew Huerta, an agricultural economics sophomore, said he does see acceptance of diversity on campus and thinks it is an integral part of the college experience.

"I think that everyone's accepting. The campus is so diverse, and your life after college will be just as diverse," Huerta said. "It's important to be open to it (now) because it's going to affect you as much after college as it does here."

Anuj Bhardwaj, an engineering management sophomore, said he sees a big mix of people on campus.

"I see a lot of different races out there, and all types of people. That's what I like about this campus," Bhardwaj said.

Bhardwaj said being accepting of diversity is important for all students because it can give them a different outlook on different cultures.

"It lets people know there are other cultures and gives people a different point of view on things," Bhardwaj said. "They can gain a different perspective."

Cruz said the Millennial Student is portrayed as being more accepting and freethinking than students of days past.

"Literature about Millennial Students states that these students are more open-minded. Basically, they have diversity and it goes beyond gender," Cruz said. "It's more like 'You're taking English and I'm taking math.' It extends beyond gender, racial or sexual perspective."

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