Sunday, September 21, 2003

Survey gives Miami low marks on diversity

The Cincinnati Enquirer

OXFORD - A newly published college guide describes Miami University's student body as homogeneous, with little acceptance of gays, lesbians and racial minorities.

Miami was ranked the fifth-worst university for gay and lesbian acceptance , fourth-worst in race and social class relations and has the 11th-most homogeneous student body, according to The 351 Best Colleges, published by The Princeton Review. The New York-based company has been doing annual college surveys since 1992.

• The study asked students 70 questions about their own school's academics, campus life and student body, as well as their study hours, politics and opinions.
• The surveys are conducted on campuses on paper with the permission of college administrators, and electronically.
• This edition's rankings are based on surveys of 106,245 students at the 351 colleges in the book (about 300 students per campus on average) during the 2002-03 and/or previous two school years.
• The book has 63 ranking lists, with each one including 20 colleges.
Based on student surveys, on campus and on the Internet, about their college experiences, the book found Miami also ranked 16th in "Major Frat / Sorority Scene" and "Great Food" categories, and seventeenth in the "Most Beautiful Campus" category .

While the ratings might seem whimsical, they affect student life, said book author Robert Franek.

"Any book could have SAT and ACT average test scores," Franek said. "College has to be a place where a student feels comfortable and this book offers . . . information that you just can't get anywhere."

Holly Wissing, university spokeswoman, was skeptical of the book's results, but said gay, lesbian, class and race relations are something the university "has to make an issue of."

"College is a vulnerable period in life and we don't want to put these issues under the rug," Wissing said. "I think Miami has made considerable progress, but there is still more to do."

Just recently, Miami opened an office of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender student services. The university also sponsors events promoting different cultures.

"I know there are a lot of people committed to diversity here, but I don't (generally) think the student body is," said Alison Stanton , a junior interdisciplinary studies major and a member of Spectrum, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight alliance on campus.

Stanton believes education is the only way to raise awareness on campus, but she says the problem is many feel her group is "shoving diversity down their throats."

University of Dayton was said by students to have a lot of beer and an easy curriculum.

Ohio State University students claimed their dorm rooms were like dungeons, that professors are never available to talk, and that it's a jock school. Ohio University in Athens largely escaped criticism, with students calling themselves happy.

University of Cincinnati and Xavier University weren't rated in the guide.


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