1985: Nuclear Disarmament in a World of Perestroika: Incoming Freshmen's Opinions

Posted by Lesley McBain on July 1st, 2015 in News, News Homepage | Comments Off

1985 blog

(Credit: Concorde supersonic aircraft in flight; taken by Adrian Pingstone on 26th November 2003 and placed in the public domain.)

Ronald Reagan was sworn in for his second term as president. A star-studded lineup of rock musicians in Philadelphia and London put on Live Aid, a 16-hour concert to benefit African famine victims. Phil Collins managed to perform at both concerts in the U.K. and the U.S. on the same day by taking the since-retired supersonic passenger jet, the Concorde, from London to Philadelphia.

In other international news, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Russia after the death of Konstantin Chernenko. Upon his assumption of power, Gorbachev began to enact perestroika , which restructured the Soviet Union not only economically, but politically and socially. Meanwhile, the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and its 400 passengers were hijacked by Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists who executed an elderly wheelchair-bound  Jewish American tourist. That same year, a TWA airliner was also hijacked by Hezbollah terrorists demanding first the names of those who sounded Jewish on board, then diplomats and Americans; the hijackers identified and tortured a group of U.S. Navy Seabees aboard, executing one.

This political upheaval meant the issue of nuclear weapons and disarmament loomed large around the world. Not only did Gorbachev make reducing nuclear arms in the Soviet Union one of his priorities, but he and Reagan met at a Geneva summit partly focusing on nuclear arms control. With this atmosphere in mind, incoming freshmen were asked not only questions about their view of society as a whole, but several questions relating to nuclear weapons and disarmament in the 1985 version of the CIRP Freshman Survey.

A general view with which respondents were asked to indicate their agreement or disagreement was “Realistically, an individual person can do little to bring about changes in our society.” Overall, 65.2% of respondents disagreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” with this statement. Only 6.9% of respondents agreed “strongly.” When broken down by gender, 62.7% of male students and 68.5% of female students disagreed either “somewhat” or “strongly.” A total of 7.6% of male students and 5.6% of female students agreed “strongly.”

When asked their reaction to the statement “Nuclear disarmament is attainable,” their optimism faded somewhat. While 54.3% agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly,” only 19.3% agreed “strongly.” Meanwhile, 46.5% disagreed either “somewhat” or “strongly,” of which 16.8% disagreed “strongly.” This varied slightly by gender. A greater percentage of male students (49.6%) disagreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” with the statement that nuclear disarmament was attainable than female students (41.6%). Incoming freshmen’s self-identified political viewpoints and reactions were related; 67.2% of students identifying as far right politically disagreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” with the statement that nuclear disarmament was attainable compared to 57.4% of those identifying as politically conservative, 43.7% identifying as politically middle-of-the-road, 37.7% identifying as liberal, and 34.6% identifying as far left.

However, incoming freshmen largely agreed with the statement “The Federal government is not doing enough to promote disarmament”; a total of 67.9% agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly.” When broken down by gender, 75.9% of female students agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly,”15.9 percentage points higher than the 60% of male students who agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly.” Students’ responses also varied by political affiliation. For instance, 78.4% of incoming freshmen who identified as politically far left agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” that the federal government was not doing enough to promote disarmament, whereas only 32.9% of those incoming freshmen who identified as politically far right agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly.”

While no survey can completely capture the Zeitgeist of a given era or individual year, these responses highlight a dual optimism and pessimism among many freshmen who entered college in 1985 about nuclear disarmament, an issue still debated by the international community today.

Did you know?: 25.9% of entering college freshmen in 1985 thought it “very important” in their choice of college that “This college has a good reputation for its social activities.”

28% of entering college freshmen in 1985 considered “Becoming an authority in my field” as an “essential” career goal.

59.6% of entering college freshmen in 1985 agreed either “strongly” or “somewhat” with the statement “The Federal government is not doing enough to protect the consumer from faulty goods and services.”

 

1984: Incoming Freshmen's Computer Knowledge the Year Macintosh Computers Were Born

Posted by Lesley McBain on June 24th, 2015 in News, News Homepage | Comments Off

1984 blog

Olympic Gateway on UCLA campus, photo credit UCLA)

This was the year made infamous by the George Orwell dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949). It was also an Olympic year in which UCLA took part in the Los Angeles hosting of the Summer Olympics. The 1984 Summer Olympics were not only the first privately financed Games ever (raising a $225 million surplus) but were boycotted by Russia and 13 Soviet allies in retaliation for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games. UCLA athletes won 37 medals. In non-Olympic news, Ronald Reagan was re-elected President. Top-selling album releases included Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. (the title track of which was famously misunderstood by the Reagan campaign, much to Springsteen’s displeasure), Prince’s Purple Rain, Michael Jackson’s Thriller (for the second consecutive year) and the soundtrack to Footloose. U2 and R.E.M. also released albums; punk and alternative releases included those from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Hüsker Dü, and Black Flag.

And, in the world of science and technology, not only did the U.S. Supreme Court rule that taping television shows on video cassette recorders for home viewing did not violate copyright law, but Apple introduced the first Macintosh computer. Notably, Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) was the first member of the Apple University Consortium to require all entering freshmen to purchase Macs. So how interested in studying computers and technology were the incoming college freshmen of 1984, three years after the first personal computer was introduced and the year the Mac was born?

The Freshman Survey asked a number of questions measuring entering students’ interest in and prior experience with science and technology, some of which were computer-specific and some of which were more general. Specific questions about computers asked incoming freshmen about their having written a computer program or taken a computer-assisted course in the past year as well as how many years they had studied computer science in high school.

Overall, 27.7% of respondents had “frequently” written a computer program in the past year, 28.3% had “occasionally” done so, and 44% responded “not at all.” When examined by gender, 32% of male students and 23.7% of female students had “frequently” written a computer program in the past year; 31.6% of male students and 25.4% of female students had “occasionally” done so; 36.4% of male students and 50.9% of female students responded “not at all.” The gender gap is most prominent in the category of “not at all,” with a 14.5 percentage point difference between female and male students.

The majority of incoming freshmen (58%) had never taken a computer-assisted course in high school; 22.1% had done so “occasionally,” and 19.9% had done so “frequently.” When asked the number of years they had studied computer science in high school, 42.6% reported not having studied it at all; 26.8% reported having studied it for one year; 23.6% reported having studied it for half a year. Only 5.6% reported having studied computer science for two years; 1% had studied it for three years.

This seems to have been reflected in entering freshmen’s opinions regarding their probable college majors and careers. At the time, the answer options offered to respondents related to computers fell into either “computer science” or “data processing or computer programming.” Only 3% of respondents indicated their probable major would be “computer science”; 1.5% of respondents indicated their probable major would be “data processing or computer programming.” Of the probable computer science majors, 61.3% were male and 38.7% female; of the probable data processing or computer programming majors, 62.8% were male and 37.2% female. When looking at students’ projected careers,  only 4.6% of respondents planned to be computer programmers or analysts.

In a testament to how times have changed both for CIRP’s assessment of incoming freshmen’s experience and with and interest in studying computers, 31 years after these entering freshmen were surveyed, Apple has launched a watch housing computer apps and 79.2% of incoming freshmen in 2013 rated their computer skills either “average” or “above average.” But back in 1984, these technological leaps had yet to be made. Video cassette recorders, after all, were still the big thing.

Did you know?: 71.6% of incoming college freshmen in 1984 reported that in the past year, they had not overslept and missed a class or an appointment.

57.1% of incoming college freshmen in 1984 thought there was either “some” or a “very good chance” that they would change their career choice.

1983: Incoming Freshmen's Environmental Concerns in an Uncertain Year

Posted by Lesley McBain on June 16th, 2015 in News, News Homepage | Comments Off

1983 Blog

Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration - Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

1983 was marked by geopolitical upheaval and technological invention alike. President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire, inflaming already tense U.S./USSR relations. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, tracked and shot down a South Korean 747 that had strayed into its airspace, killing all aboard. The falling of the Berlin Wall reunited East and West Germany for the first time since 1945. A terrorist attack in Lebanon carried out by a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 220 U.S. Marines and 21 other service personnel.  The space shuttle Challenger made a successful first voyage, featuring both the first U.S. female astronaut, the late Dr. Sally Ride, and the first U.S. space walk in nine years. (Challenger tragically exploded after liftoff in 1986.)

Other upheavals occurred in arts and music. Compact discs were introduced and began to shoulder vinyl records to the side. Singer Karen Carpenter died from anorexia-related complications, bringing eating disorders into the public spotlight for the first time.  M*A*S*H’s final episode aired and still holds the record for most-watched TV series finale. The ABC TV-movie The Day After, a controversial apocalyptic depiction of the aftermath of a U.S.-Russia nuclear exchange , was shot at and around the University of Kansas to make the point that nowhere—not even part of what many considered the quintessential American heartland—was safe from nuclear war.

College freshmen taking The Freshman Survey in 1983 were also concerned about less overwhelming environmental issues. When asked their opinion of “The Federal government is not doing enough to control environmental pollution,” 81.4% overall agreed either “strongly” or “somewhat,” with 30.9% agreeing “strongly.” The survey also measured respondents’ level of agreement with the statement “The Federal government should do more to discourage energy consumption.” Overall, 77.5% agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” with this statement, with 59.5% agreeing “somewhat.”

When breaking down responses to “The Federal government is not doing enough to control environmental pollution” by gender, male and female students’ answers were extremely similar in the “agree strongly” category (respectively 31% and 30.7%); of the few who disagreed “strongly,” 3.1% were male and 1.4% female. The same pattern held true when analyzing responses to “The Federal government should do more to discourage energy consumption” by gender. A total of 15.6% of males and 18.5% of females agreed “strongly”; 3.8% of males and 2.3% of females disagreed “strongly.”

Opinions differed somewhat along self-identified political affiliation. A total of 84.3% of students identifying as far left politically agreed either “strongly” or “somewhat” that the government was not doing enough to control environmental pollution; on the opposite end of the political spectrum, 58.8% of students identifying as far right also agreed either “strongly” or “somewhat” with the statement. When asked whether the federal government should do more to discourage energy consumption, 76.2% of students identifying as far left politically agreed either “strongly” or “somewhat.” This was also true for 61.3% of students identifying as far right.

Opinions that the federal government was not doing enough to protect the environment also held true across geographic regions. For instance, 83.2% of students in the East, 79.9% of students in the Midwest, 79.5% of students in the South, and 80.8% of students in the West agreed either “strongly” or “somewhat” that the government was not doing enough to control environmental pollution.

This convergence of opinion regarding the need for the federal government to do more work on controlling environmental pollution and discouraging energy consumption is striking because it cuts across gender, political, and regional differences between students at a time when President Ronald Reagan and many other politicians advocated strongly for a limited government and less federal regulation. Yet TFS freshmen respondents in 1983, according to the data, were looking for the federal government to do more to protect the environment they shared with those limited-government advocates.

Did you know?:  Only 8.1% of 1983 freshmen respondents rated themselves as “above average” when asked about their “popularity with the opposite sex”; 52.4% rated themselves as “below average” and 35% rated themselves “average.”

34.5% of freshmen students in 1983 planned to earn a master’s degree as their highest academic degree.

36.8% of responding freshmen in 1983 considered going to college to “make me a more cultured person” a “very important” reason to attend.

1982: Women's Rights and the ERA

Posted by Lesley McBain on June 9th, 2015 in News, News Homepage | Comments Off

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1981: Incoming Freshmen's Attitudes Toward Homosexuality in the Shadow of AIDS

Posted by Lesley McBain on June 2nd, 2015 in News, News Homepage, Research, Surveys | Comments Off

1981 Blog

Chaos outside the Washington Hilton Hotel after the assassination attempt on President Reagan, credit National Archives and Records Administration)

MTV launched on August 1, playing its first video, “Video Killed the Radio Star” (The Buggles) and nine other music videos. The first personal computer—not the first Macintosh—was introduced. In world and national politics, Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin for agreeing to the Camp David Accords brokered by Jimmy Carter, was assassinated by Egyptian extremists. Iran agreed to free the U.S. hostages who had been held by Iranian revolutionaries since 1979, but timed their release for moments after Ronald Reagan took office as President of the United States in January 1981. In March, an an assassination attempt seriously wounded Reagan and three others. Reagan later nominated Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female Supreme Court justice.

Also, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was first identified. The first U.S. cases predominantly occurred among gay men. Unfortunately, this led to “AIDS hysteria” manifesting in rampant homophobia; in fact, some public responses to recent Ebola outbreaks have been compared to reactions in the early days of AIDS. Given the fear-driven attitude directed at AIDS victims across the country, what were first-year college students’ attitudes toward gay rights in 1981? The CIRP Freshman Survey measured one aspect of this by requesting that respondents indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with the statement “It is important to have laws prohibiting homosexual relationships.” A total of 57.6% disagreed either “somewhat” or “strongly,” with 23.5% disagreeing “strongly.” However, 42.4% of respondents agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly,” with 19.4% agreeing “strongly.” It should be noted that the survey did not ask students about their sexual orientation at that time.

Delving into the data by respondents’ self-professed religious preferences yields a range of viewpoints. In 1981 the CIRP data on religious preferences were not as granular as today, so the only religious categories available to examine are “Protestant,” “Roman Catholic,” “Jewish,” “none,” and “other” with a separate question asking if students considered themselves born-again Christians. While many respondents rejected the idea that having laws prohibiting homosexual relationships was important—80% of Jewish respondents, 75.3% of respondents with no religious affiliation, 57.9% of Roman Catholic respondents, and 53% of Protestant respondents disagreed either “strongly” or “somewhat” with the idea—not all did so. Of those students who considered themselves born-again Christians, a total of 59.1% agreed either “strongly” or “somewhat.”

When examined by gender, a slight majority (51.5%) of male students agreed either “strongly” or “somewhat” with the importance of there being laws prohibiting homosexual relationships, compared to only 34.3% of female students. Only 17.9% of male students disagreed “strongly” with the idea, as opposed to 28.6% of female students. Analyzing the data by self-described political affiliation yielded differences as well. For instance, those who characterized their political views as far-right predominantly agreed that it was important to have laws prohibiting homosexual activities; 57.7% agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” with the idea. Of those, 38.4% agreed “strongly.” Of those who characterized their political views as conservative, 50.9% agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” with the idea; of those, 26.1% agreed “strongly.” However, even some first-year students on the other side of the political spectrum agreed with the importance of laws prohibiting homosexual activities. A total of 30.8% of students identifying as politically liberal agreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” with the idea, with 14.2% agreeing “strongly.”

The mixed data presented here bear witness to students’ conflicting attitudes toward at least one aspect of gay rights in 1981. However, over the decades the CIRP Freshman Survey has moved from asking about laws prohibiting same-sex relationships to not only asking students their sexual orientation, but soliciting their opinion on views such as “Same-sex couples should have the right to legal marital status” (2015) and “Gays and lesbians should have the right to adopt a child” (2013); in 2013, 83.3% of incoming freshmen supported this right.

Did you know?: 64.2% of incoming freshmen respondents in 1981 agreed “strongly” that “College graduates should be able to demonstrate some minimal competency in written English and mathematics.”

76.7% of incoming freshmen in 1981 disagreed either “somewhat” or “strongly” with “College officials have the right to ban persons with extreme views from speaking on campus.”

1980: In a Time of World Conflict, College Freshmen's Views on Reviving the Draft

Posted by Lesley McBain on May 20th, 2015 in News, News Homepage, Research, Surveys | Comments Off

1980 Blog

The US Olympic men's hockey team Miracle on Ice on a Paraguayan postage stamp, public domain)

Jimmy Carter was still president, mired in the ongoing Iranian hostage crisis and an aborted raid to resolve it that ended in catastrophe. (Carter was defeated in November 1980 by Ronald Reagan in a Republican landslide.) America led a boycott of the Summer Olympics held in Moscow — the first Olympics held in a Communist country — over the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later in the Winter Olympics, the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team pulled off the “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid, NY, beating the heavily favored USSR team for the gold medal. In New York City, John Lennon was murdered in front of his apartment building.  And Ted Turner launched CNN to capitalize on the public’s appetite for news as the Iran-Iraq War began.

Given the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and concerns about U.S. troop strength, President Carter reactivated the requirement that American men between 18 and 25 register for Selective Service, otherwise known as the draft. A companion recommendation to Congress was that Section 811 of the Department of Defense Authorization Act of 1980 be amended to “provide presidential authority to register, classify, and examine women for service in the Armed Forces” for the first time in history. Moreover, several men filed court challenges to the Selective Service Act because it excluded women.

How did students entering college in 1980—the majority of whom were of age to register for Selective Service—feel about this issue? Particularly since only 1.3% of respondents indicated future plans for military service as a voluntary career choice and thus a draft, if carried out, would potentially alter the majority of respondents’ self-reported career futures?

When asked to rate their agreement or disagreement with the statement “Women should be selected to the draft,” 56.3%, a slight majority, chose “agree somewhat” or “agree strongly.” Of those who chose “disagree somewhat” or “disagree strongly” (43.8%), 21.6% chose “disagree somewhat” and 22.2% chose “disagree strongly,” with only a 0.6 percentage point difference separating them.

When broken down by gender, more males (32.6%) than females (11.7%) strongly agreed that women should be selected for the draft; conversely, more females (31.6%) than males (12.2%) strongly disagreed that women should be selected for the draft. Political views, surprisingly, were less monolithic on the subject. Of those students who identified as far right politically, 53.1% agreed somewhat or strongly that women should be selected for the draft. Among students who identified as far left politically, 56% agreed somewhat or strongly that women should be selected for the draft.

However, gender differences appeared within political categories. For instance, 25.8% of male students identifying as far right politically disagreed strongly that women should be selected for the draft, compared to 47.7% of female students identifying as far right politically. Of those identifying as far left politically, 17.8% of male students disagreed strongly that women should be selected for the draft versus 43.4% of female students.

Nuances also appeared when analyzing responses in light of other questions about students’ views on social roles for women. For instance, of those who disagreed strongly with the view that women should be selected for the draft, only 2.2% also disagreed strongly with the view that “women should receive the same salary and opportunities for advancement as men in comparable positions.” By contrast, 76.3% of those who disagreed strongly that women should be selected for the draft agreed strongly that “women should receive the same salary and opportunities for advancement as men in comparable positions.”

As can be seen by the partial data presented, the issue of women and the draft was complex for 1980’s first-year students, set against a backdrop of the beginnings of the 1980s phase of the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia and world turbulence elsewhere.

Did you know?: 72.8% of college entering freshmen in 1980 agreed either strongly or somewhat that “faculty promotions should be based in part on student evaluations.”

1979: Inflation, College, and Making Money: Financial Concerns of Incoming Freshmen

Posted by Lesley McBain on May 19th, 2015 in News, News Homepage, Research, Surveys | Comments Off

Three Mile Island

Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, 1979, credit United States Department of Energy public domain)

 

Jimmy Carter was still president. In Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady,” was elected the first female Prime Minister. The dictator Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia was overthrown by Vietnam-backed insurgents. Nicaraguan President General Somoza resigned and fled to Miami en route to exile in Paraguay, leaving Nicaragua in the control of the opposing Sandinista movement. The Shah of Iran’s government was overthrown by supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini; after fleeing Iran, the Shah was admitted to the U.S. for medical treatment. As a result, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran deteriorated to the point that the U.S. Embassy was overrun by student militants and approximately 90 American hostages taken.

In the U.S., the state of Ohio agreed to compensate the families of those killed and injured in the Kent State University shootings. The worst nuclear power plant accident in U.S. history took place at Three Mile Island (PA) when a reactor partly melted down, though minimal radiation was released and subsequent studies showed minimal effects on those living and working in the area surrounding the plant. The U.S. economy began to experience a slowdown partly influenced by rising gas costs; inflation rose sharply as well, with an average rate of 11.22%.

Given the rate of inflation, the topic understandably weighed on respondents: 78.2% agreed either somewhat or strongly that “Inflation is our biggest domestic problem.” Of those, 36.6% answered “agree strongly.” The related topic of making money was also on students’ minds. An overwhelming majority (75.5%) stated attending college “to be able to get a better job” was “very important”; attending college “to be able to make more money” was also “very important” to 60.9% of respondents.

When asked about the personal importance of the goal “Being very well off financially,” 60.2% considered it either “essential” or “very important.” One out of five (21.9%)  respondents considered it “essential.”  With being very well off financially as a goal, it is unsurprising that 20.9% of students overall reported majoring in business; this was the most popular major by far, with engineering coming in second (11.4%) and health professions (10.5%) rounding out the top three majors. Of the respondents who said attending college in order to make more money was “very important,” 25.2% were business majors and 13.1% were engineering majors. Interestingly, 65% of business majors agreed either strongly or somewhat with the view “Wealthy people should pay a larger share of taxes than they do now.”

To further understand the sources of financial support students received in their freshman year, the 1979 version of the TFS asked questions such as whether respondents had received more than $600 in financial assistance from their parents either the year before or in the survey year, equating to roughly over $2,000 in 2014 dollars. Of those who had, 59.8% responded that going to college “to be able to make more money” was “very important.” However, 62.9% of those who had not received more than $600 in financial assistance from their parents also considered it “very important.”

In addition to illuminating the financial concerns of students entering college in the late 1970s, these data provide historical context for today’s discussions on the purpose of a college education and institutions’ responsibilities in terms of educating students specifically for the labor market.

Did you know?: 62.5% of incoming freshmen in 1979 agreed either strongly or somewhat that “Grading in the high schools has become too easy.”

53.5% of freshmen in 1979 had not played a musical instrument in the past year.

When asked “Which of the following life patterns would you prefer ten to fifteen years from now?” about marriage, career, and family, 86.4% of those who chose being single also preferred not to have children.

1978: Sort-of Swinging Seventies? Incoming Freshmen's Attitudes on Sex, Living Together, and Divorce

Posted by Lesley McBain on May 12th, 2015 in News, News Homepage, Research, Surveys, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Camp David 1978

Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter at Camp David, 1978 (credit: U.S. govt archives)

Jimmy Carter was still president; one of his signal accomplishments that year was the 13-day Camp David summit resulting in a historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The Blizzard of 1978 (Northeast Edition) paralyzed New England and the Northeast, killing approximately 100 people and injuring over 4,000 more; the other Blizzard of 1978 (Ohio Valley and Great Lakes Edition) paralyzed Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, parts of Wisconsin, and parts of Pennsylvania, killing over 70 people). In technology news, Sony introduced the first portable stereo: the Walkman. Top movies were The Deer Hunter, Midnight Express, and Coming Home. One of the biggest U.S. higher education news items was the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke decision, where the Supreme Court held that race could be considered as a factor in ensuring diversity in college admissions, but that student quotas were impermissible.

To shed light on incoming college students’ opinions of the rapidly changing world around them—only five years after Roe v. Wade (1973) made abortion legal across the U.S. and when only some states did not have no-fault divorce laws allowing divorce without proof of wrongdoing such as physical or psychological abuse or abandonment—the CIRP Freshman Survey asked a number of questions about attitudes toward sex, living together before marriage, and divorce. As can be seen by the results, young men and women often had different perspectives.

Respondents were split almost evenly overall on the question “If two people like each other, it’s all right for them to have sex even if they’ve known each other for only a very short time”; 47.2% agreed either strongly or somewhat, while 52.9 disagreed either strongly or somewhat. However, when disaggregated by gender, 24.9% of men agreed strongly versus only 8.2% of women; conversely, 38.4% of women disagreed strongly while 14.8% of men disagreed strongly. Part of what may have played a role in this split is the issue of contraception and abortion availability in 1978 (e.g., abortion services being unavailable for 26% of the women estimated to need them in 1978).

The same gender differences appeared across self-reported political views. For instance, 32.9% of males who identified as far right politically agreed strongly with the question as opposed to 13.1% of female students; on the opposite end of the political spectrum, 49.1% of males who identified as far left politically agreed strongly versus 22.4% of females who identified as far left. Strong disagreement by men ranged from 9.1% (liberal) to 22.1% (far right). Strong disagreement by women ranged from 25.1% (liberal) to 56.6% (conservative).

When asked their opinion of the statement “A couple should live together for some time before deciding to get married,” 43.8% of all incoming college students agreed either strongly or somewhat, though only 9.5% of that total agreed strongly; 56.2% disagreed either strongly or somewhat, with 24.9% of that total disagreeing strongly. A total of 49.9% of male students agreed somewhat or strongly; 38.2% of female students agreed somewhat or strongly.

Gender differences, unsurprisingly, also were prominent in students’ agreement or disagreement with the statement “The activities of married women are best confined to the home and family.” 32.7% of male students overall agreed either somewhat or strongly with the statement; 28.2% disagreed strongly, and 39.1% (the most common answer) disagreed somewhat. By contrast, only 17.5% of female students agreed either somewhat or strongly with the statement; 61.5% of female students disagreed strongly, with another 21% disagreeing somewhat. Agreement or disagreement by gender with the view “Divorce laws should be liberalized” was less stark than the other views examined here. For instance, 50.6% of male students disagreed either strongly or somewhat versus 56% of female students. Only 13.1% of male students and 10.1% of female students answered “agree strongly.”

Overall, 46.6% of students agreed either strongly or somewhat that divorce laws should be liberalized. To set this in historical context, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the 1978 U.S. divorce rate continued along the upward trend it had been following since 1963. The divorce rate increased by 3.6% from 1977, with the estimated 1,130,000 divorces granted in 1978 representing a rate of 5.2 per 1,000 population.

This set of questions and their answers illustrates different worldviews of men and women students about various facets of relationships and sexuality in the changing culture of the late 1970s. While today’s generation may have coined the phrase “hookup culture,” incoming freshmen had pronounced opinions on the matter decades before today’s freshmen were even born.

Did You Know?: In 1978, 59.7% of incoming students agreed either somewhat or strongly that “A national health care plan is needed to cover everybody’s health care costs.”

27.1% of incoming students agreed either somewhat or strongly that “Colleges would be improved if organized sports were de-emphasized.”

67.6% of incoming students felt there was a very good chance they would find a job after graduation in the field in which they were trained in college.

1977: Baking Cakes and Using Robert's Rules of Order: Measuring Incoming Freshmen's Nonacademic Skills

Posted by Lesley McBain on May 5th, 2015 in News, News Homepage, Surveys, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Credit: Star Wars fans at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, May 25, 1977, credit unknown

Jimmy Carter was elected U.S. president. Elvis Presley died. Star Wars (the original) premiered; Saturday Night Fever and its movie soundtrack highlighted the Age of Disco, though the Sex Pistols and The Clash released landmark punk albums in the same year. The neutron bomb was created, but a nuclear proliferation treaty curtailing the spread of nuclear weapons was signed by 15 countries including the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). South African Black anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko died after torture in South African police custody, sparking international protests, a UN arms embargo, and the later release of Peter Gabriel’s protest song “Biko” (1980).

In what seems an anomaly given the time, the 1977 CIRP Freshman Survey asked whether incoming freshmen respondents could presently perform certain activities well, would like to learn them, or had no interest in learning them. The chosen activities were: typing 40+ words per minute, speaking a second language fluently, water-skiing, skiing on snow, sight-reading piano music, reading music (for singing), refereeing one or more sporting events, using a sewing machine, using Robert’s Rules of Order, scoring a tennis match, identifying many classical musical compositions by title and composer, programming a computer, using a slide rule, swimming a mile without stopping, naming the animal phyla, describing the difference between stocks and bonds, baking a cake from scratch (“no mixes”), describing the personal freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and doing at least 15 push-ups.

This question disappears from the survey after 1977, but its answers partly illustrate 1970s gender roles: 77.9% of women respondents could bake a cake from scratch as opposed to 24.0% of men. Only 5.6% of women, compared to 47.4% of men, had no interest in learning. A total of 63.9% of women respondents could use a sewing machine well; only 9.2% of men could, and 71.7% of men had no interest in learning how. Just over half (53.4%) of women respondents could already type 40+ words per minute compared to 27.9% of men respondents. Interestingly, however, 56.7% of men indicated they would like to learn.

Some answers were more unisex. For instance, only 9.9% of men and 9.7% of women could use Robert’s Rules of Order well; the majority of both men (57.9%) and women (57.2%) had no interest in learning to do so. When asked about their ability to program a computer (which in 1977 meant using BASIC as opposed to today’s SQL, Java, C++, and so on), 9.5% of men and 4.3% of women could do so well; 67.1% of men and 56.6% of women indicated they would like to learn. A total of 28.9% of men and 18.3% of women could use a slide rule; 52.3% of men and 48.4% of women indicated they would like to learn. Only 9.7% of men and 8.1% of women could name the animal phyla, and the majority of both sexes (55.2% of men, 57% of women) had no interest in learning to do so.

Given the emphasis on sporting and cultural activities requiring enough income to afford both specialized equipment and, in the case of snow and water-skiing, access to adequate bodies of water or mountains, when disaggregated by income the responses differed strikingly. For instance, only 11.6% of those students who estimated their parents’ total income as less than $3,000 in 1977 (comparable to approximately $11,500 in 2013 when using a historical standard of living calculator) could ski “very well” on snow. However, 49.6% of those students who estimated their parents’ total income as $50,000 or more in 1977 (comparable to approximately $192,000 in 2013) could ski “very well” on snow.

When asked about water-skiing, 12.3% of those students who estimated their parents’ total income as less than $3,000 could do so “very well,” but 51.1% of those who estimated their parents’ total income as $50,000 or more could do so. And while only 7.1% of students who estimated their parents’ total income as less than $3,000 in 1977 could identify many classical music compositions by title and composer “very well,” 14.0% of those who estimated their parents’ total income as $50,000 or more in 1977 could do so. Finance education also differed by parental income; 19.2% of students who estimated their parents’ total income as less than $3,000 could describe the difference between stocks and bonds “very well,” as compared to 36.1% of those who estimated their parents’ total income as $50,000 or more.

This question is interesting in retrospect because of what it says about survey item selection’s dependence on the cultural context of its time and its designers. Why not ask if students knew how to explain football scoring rather than score a tennis match? Why ask about whether they could ski instead of play baseball, softball, tennis, or soccer? Why ask about push-ups instead of running a mile? Why ask about baking a cake from scratch rather than some other type of cooking? It serves to remind us that every survey has embedded cultural assumptions of some kind.

Did You Know?: 63.8% of incoming freshmen in 1977 agreed either strongly or somewhat that “Grading in the high schools has become too easy.”

71.5% of incoming freshmen in 1977 disagreed either strongly or somewhat that “Open admissions (admitting anyone who applies) should be adopted by all publicly-supported colleges.”

82.2% of incoming freshmen in 1977 disagreed either strongly or somewhat that “College grades should be abolished.”

1977 CIRP Freshman Survey instrument

AIR Forum ‐ May 26-29, 2015 in Denver, CO

Posted by Silvio Vallejos on May 1st, 2015 in Conferences | Comments Off

HERI is a proud Platinum sponsor of the 2015 AIR Forum

Presentations by HERI at the 2015 AIR Annual Forum

Decisions, Decisions: How College Choice Affects the Transition to College
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
11:45 AM – 12:45 PM,
Room: Poster 1
Data Analysis and Research Methods for IR

Format: Poster Presentation Session

Abstract: As cost and financial aid concerns become increasingly significant in college choice, incoming freshmen apply to more schools than ever, and fewer students attend their first choice colleges (Eagan et al., 2013). However, it remains unclear how this affects their experiences once they get to college. This study examines how experiences during the first year vary based on students’ institutional choices. Using data from the 2014 Your First College Year Survey (YFCY), this study compares experiences of students from 4 groups: students not admitted to their first-choice institutions; students admitted to their first choices, but went elsewhere; students attending their first choices, but applied to multiple institutions; and students attending their first choices who only applied to 1 institution. Visual display of the findings shed light on the transition to college and how survey items, in addition to demographic data, can be used to add a level of analysis to institutional research.

Presenter: Ellen Stolzenberg (UCLA)

Promoting URM Student Persistence in STEM through Dynamic Assessment

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
11:45 AM – 12:45 PM, Room: Poster 9
Assessment: Accountability, Institutional Effectiveness, and Accreditation

Format: Poster Presentation Session

Abstract: Institutions must better understand how various assessment methods can inform curricular and programmatic changes. This imperative is particularly relevant to STEM programs, which face the longstanding issue of underrepresentation of female and racial minority students. This poster shares two multi-method assessment plans and their development in addressing the evolving needs of programs geared toward retaining URM students in STEM majors. Viewers will come away from this presentation with a better understanding of how to integrate a variety of assessment methods and methodologies, and of the benefits and challenges of balancing formative and summative assessment. As such, they will be better equipped to serve new or evolving programs, which requires a dynamic approach to assessment.

Presenters: Hannah Whang (University of California- Los Angeles), Marc Levis-Fitzgerald (University of California-Los Angeles), Brit Toven-Lindsey (University of California-Los Angeles)

Using Multi-Level Modeling to Examine First-Year Students’ Civic Engagement
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
3:00 PM – 3:45 PM, Room: Room 405-407: Group 4

Data Analysis and Research Methods for IR

Format: Discussion Group Session

Abstract: This discussion addresses the use of multi-level modeling when examining first-year students’ engagement with civic practices. The following questions are discussed to promote a conversation about civic engagement on campus and how multi-level modeling can better inform programs and practices: What is the purpose of analyzing data accounting for nested structures? What individual and institutional characteristics are more likely to predict civic engagement? How can higher education practitioners and IR professionals use multi-level modeling to understand students’ engagement with civic practices in college? What practices promote civic engagement, especially for first-year students?

Presenter: Jennifer Berdan (University of California-Los Angeles)

(Sponsored Session) An Insightful Overview of CIRP Surveys: Benefits for Institutional Growth
Thursday, May 28, 2015
8:15 AM – 9:00 AM, Room: Meeting Room 112 (Theater)

Data Analysis and Research Methods for IR

Format: Sponsored Speaker Session

Abstract: Across many universities and colleges, faculty and administrators use data for evidence-based decision making. While different methods of data gathering exist, valid and thoughtful surveys administered in a paper or online format can be a highly effective way to collect responses. The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) provides institutions with the ability to better understand the experiences of their students through the administration of their five national surveys. All of the surveys are described in detail, emphasizing the longitudinal design. Additionally, administration techniques and tools are discussed to help institutions maximize participation. Finally, reporting procedures are outlined to highlight the practical use of the data for individual campuses. Overall, the objective of the session is to foster dialogue about the importance of survey research and to introduce one option in achieving this goal.

Presenters: Abigail Bates (University of California, Los Angeles), Dominique Harrison (Higher Education Research Institute), Maria Suchard (UCLA), Ellen Stolzenberg (UCLA)

Engineering Students’ Post-College Pathways and Careers
Thursday, May 28, 2015
11:45 AM – 12:45 PM, Room: Poster 60

Data Analysis and Research Methods for IR

Format: Poster Presentation Session

Abstract: With an estimated half-million job openings in engineering expected in the near future, strengthening pathways from engineering degree completion to entry into the workforce is of national concern. This study aims to identify the undergraduate experiences that contribute to the different post-college pathways taken by engineering degree holders. Using a national sample of 1,956 engineering graduates, findings from this study focus on experiences important to ABET engineering program accreditation criteria, emphasizing mobility along engineering career pathways to inform institutional policies and strengthen engineering retention rates.

Presenters: Bryce Hughes (University of California-Los Angeles), Robert Paul (University of California, Los Angeles), Kevin Eagan (University of California-Los Angeles)

More Money More Problems: Impact of Financial Concern on College Adjustment
Thursday, May 28, 2015
11:45 AM – 12:45 PM, Room: Poster 10
Data Analysis and Research Methods for IR

Format: Poster Presentation Session

Abstract: The first college year can be a stressful time for students, especially when they are also concerned about their abilities to pay for school. Given the difficult adjustment to college, compounded by concerns over college costs, it is important to examine how these issues are related. This poster presents findings on the impact of students’ financial concerns on their adjustments to college. This study is unique in that it looks at students from multiple SES groups and examines their financial concerns, regardless of their financial needs. Using national data, this analysis examines the differences between groups of students with varying levels of financial concern. The poster presentation highlights different experiences of these students in their freshman years, which may impact their adjustments. There is also a section on the impact of these findings for institutions.

Presenter: Abigail Bates (University of California, Los Angeles)

Measuring and Benchmarking Campus Equity and Inclusion

Thursday, May 28, 2015
2:30 PM – 3:15 PM, Room: Meeting Room 106 (Theater)

IR Studies for Campus Decision Support

Format: Speaker Session

Abstract: Colleges and universities face increasing internal and external pressures to improve inclusion and equity on campus. However, measuring and benchmarking an institution’s climate for diversity can prove challenging. This presentation demonstrates how a new assessment tool—the Diverse Learning Environments (DLE) Scorecard—may help researchers identify and measure equity and inclusion at the institutional level. Aligning with national standards, the DLE Scorecard is linked to AAC&U’s Inclusive Excellence Framework as well as several VALUE rubrics. The presentation highlights how the Scorecard may be used to inform decision makers about practices, policies, and programs that may further the institution’s commitment to inclusion and equity.

Presenters: Oscar Mayorga (University of California, Los Angeles), Kevin Eagan (University of California-Los Angeles), Joseph Ramirez (University of California, Los Angeles)

Assessing the Pervasiveness of Sexual Assault on College Campuses
Thursday, May 28, 2015
3:30 PM – 4:15 PM, Room: Meeting Room 403 & 404 (Theater)

IR Studies for Campus Decision Support

Format: Speaker Session

Abstract: In the past year, colleges and universities have encountered increased pressure to assess and address instances of sexual assault on campus. Although a report issued by the White House suggests that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, that statistic is based on a limited sample of students collected from two public universities. This presentation contextualizes the latest developments in policy and legislation regarding campus sexual assault and highlights data from a number of institutions—both private and public—about the prevalence of sexual assault on campus and students’ perceptions about the institutional response to allegations. The session concludes with a conversation that engages participants about data on this issue and how campuses are adjusting to new regulations.

Presenter: Kevin Eagan (University of California-Los Angeles)

Facilitator: Jessica Sharkness

From Administration to Z-Scores: An Overview of Survey Research
Friday, May 29, 2015
9:00 AM – 9:45 AM, Room: Room 405-407: Group 5

Assessment: Accountability, Institutional Effectiveness, and Accreditation

Format: Discussion Group Session

Abstract: Survey research is a complex, multifaceted approach often used in higher education assessment. However, discussion of the multitude of factors to consider before, during, and after survey administration is not as common. The discussion addresses three overlapping themes and chronological periods: administration and planning, best practices, and college impact. Questions guiding this discussion include: What are key considerations on your campus when planning and administering surveys? How are data disseminated and utilized once a survey has been administered? Are there particular components of survey research with which your campus struggles? What are the most successful aspects of survey research at your institution? Along with the experiences of session participants, staff from CIRP at the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) share examples based on years of survey design, administration, and research experience.

Presenters: Ellen Stolzenberg (UCLA), Dominique Harrison (Higher Education Research Institute)