Date of Award

12-2007

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Andrea Beach

Abstract

Affirmative action has become an increasingly important topic in higher education because colleges and universities are key battlegrounds regarding how affirmative action policies are enacted. Senior-level higher education administrators have historically taken the lead in shaping affirmative action policies in higher education, and knowing their own community's standpoints on the policies could assist them in deciding how to proceed in defending affirmative action in the face of increasing opposition.

This study measures individuals' attitudes toward and knowledge of affirmative action within one university in the state of Michigan, where affirmative action was banned through a state-wide election in November 2006. An invitation to participate in a web-based survey was sent out to a random sample of faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students. Five-hundred and twenty university community members responded.

The web-based survey was a modification of Echols' (1997) Echols Affirmative Action Inventory (EAAI), which measured respondents knowledge of and attitudes toward affirmative action. The modified survey questions were divided into six sub-categories: definitions, knowledge of affirmative action, attitudes of affirmative action, perceived impact of affirmative action, support of affirmative action, and demographics.

The study found that personal definitions did vary somewhat by various demographic groups. However, in general the definitions were more positive in nature than they were negative meaning they are supportive of affirmative action than opposed. Attitude level was significantly related to race, party affiliation, and direction of vote. Knowledge level was found to be significantly different based on race, education level, position at the university, direction of vote, party affiliation, and age. Both support level and impact level of affirmative action were found to be significantly influenced by certain demographic variables. Additionally, knowledge, attitude, and impact combined were found to significantly influence support level. Overall, support for affirmative action among university community members was higher than that of the overall population in the state.

The findings here can be used by higher education leaders in states that have not banned affirmative action to consider how to impact the knowledge and attitudes of not only their own institutions but the population at large.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access