In 1996, Bill Clinton was reelected for a second term, the Centennial Summer Olympics as well as the Paralympics were held in Atlanta, Rent moved to Broadway to start a 12-year run at the Nederlander Theatre, and a Clean Air Act amendment went into effect, finally banning any remaining leaded fuel for on-road vehicles. Sadly, TWA flight 800 crashed on July 17th off Long Island, only 10 days before another bombing in Atlanta rocked the Olympic celebrations.
In 1996, two important developments ushered in a new era in affirmative action policy and practices within higher education. First, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued their decision on the Hopwood v. Texas case, ruling against the University of Texas’ Law School and its use of race in its admission practices. Second, in the fall 1996 general election, voters in the state of California passed Proposition 209, prohibiting public colleges and universities from considering race, sex, national origin, or ethnicity in their employment and admission practices. Similar bans were enacted shortly afterwards in Texas, Washington, and Florida. Such changes dramatically altered the role and use of affirmative action in higher education.
At the same time affirmative action policies and practices were being debated within local, state, and national forums, changes to the CIRP Freshman Survey sought to understand incoming college students’ attitudes toward these issues. In the 1996 CIRP Freshman Survey, students were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statements:
• Affirmative action in college admissions should be abolished
• Undocumented immigrants should be denied access to public education
• All official federal and state documents should be printed in English only
Results from the survey show that students were nearly evenly split on the issue of affirmative action, with 48.9% of students indicating that they “Agree strongly” or “Agree somewhat” that affirmative action should be abolished. A greater percentage of men agreed with the statement (56.4%) than their female classmates (42.8%). Nearly twenty years later in 2013, a larger percentage of students (52.0%) felt that affirmative action should be abolished, while the gap between male and female students closed from 13.6 percentage points in 1996 to 8.4 percentage points in 2013 (56.5% v. 48.1%).
When asked about undocumented immigrants and whether they should be denied access to public education, 55.5% of students agreed. Though a majority of incoming college students thought public education should be denied to undocumented immigrants, a smaller percentage (44.3%) felt that all official documents should be printed in English only. Similarly, male and female students reported differing views on denying undocumented immigrants access to public education (64.3% v. 48.4%) as well as printing federal and state documents in English only (54.9% v. 35.9%).
DID YOU KNOW:
- 50.0% of incoming freshmen reported that their parents had 4 or more dependents for support.
- Less than half (48.8%) of students who frequently performed volunteer work during their senior year of high school thought there was a “Very good chance” they would participate in volunteer or community service work while in college.
- 77.4% reported losing their temper in the past year.
- 18.0% had major concerns about their ability to finance their college education.
- 8.7% indicated that rankings in the national magazines were a “very important” factor in their college choice, but this increased to 22.0% for those who attended private universities.