Diallo Shabazz was a student at the University of Wisconsin in 2000 when he stopped by the admissions office. "One of the admissions counselors walked up to me, and said, 'Diallo, did you see yourself in the admissions booklet? Actually, you're on the cover this year,' " Shabazz says.
The photo was a shot of students at a football game — but Shabazz had never been to a football game.
"So I flipped back, and that's when I saw my head cut off and kind of pasted onto the front cover of the admissions booklet," he says.
This Photoshopped image and became a classic example of how colleges miss the mark on diversity. Wisconsin stressed that it was just one person's bad choice, but Shabazz sees it as part of a bigger problem.
"The admissions department that we've been talking about, I believe, was on the fourth floor, and multicultural student center was on the second floor of that same building," he says. "So you didn't need to create false diversity in the picture — all you really needed to do was go downstairs."
What say you? Now I've definitely seen this in every school I've attended (though the one I'm in now is actually pretty diverse). There are ways to increase diversity—especially when you recruit and promote faculty, staff and administration of color— that can genuine paradigm shifts in a school. This is what I would prefer.
"Diversity is something that's being marketed," Pippert says. "They're trying to sell a campus climate, they're trying to sell a future. Campuses are trying to say, 'If you come here, you'll have a good time, and you'll fit in.' "
Pippert and his researchers looked at more than 10,000 images from college brochures, comparing the racial breakdown of students in the pictures to the colleges' actual demographics. They found that, overall, the whiter the school, the more diversity depicted in the brochures, especially for certain groups.
"When we looked at African-Americans in those schools that were predominantly white, the actual percentage in those campuses was only about 5 percent of the student body," he says. "They were photographed at 14.5 percent."
I guess they could argue that their goal might to recruit a diverse student body, thereby highlighting them in their brochure and hoping for a change in future applications. But then again they might also know that nice, upper middle class, white liberal kids want a diverse student body (but not that diverse) and schools want those kids and their full tuition checks.