Nov

5

SSOL and the Feds Want to Know Your Race

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You may be wondering why, upon login, SSOL displays bright red text asking you to “complete the Ethnicity and Race resurvey.” The university announced today that it will be collecting ethnicity and race data again to comply with new Department of Education guidelines for these categories. Respondents will be asked to answer whether they are Hispanic or non-Hispanic, before selecting one or more of five categories: American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian; Black or African American; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White.

Beginning tomorrow, students will be invited via email (which may or may not already be in your inbox) to participate in the new survey, and faculty will be resurveyed starting in March. Those who do not participate will have their old responses (taken from admissions applications) adjusted to the new categories over the summer. All the better to non-discriminate!

UPDATE: Sample email after the jump. 

– JCD


Dear Student:

Columbia, like all educational institutions, is required to collect ethnicity and race data from its students and, in turn, to report such data to the U.S. Department of Education through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education made changes to how educational institutions, including Columbia, must collect that data and then report it to the Department.  The federal government now requires educational institutions to collect the data using a two-part question:

—      First, the student is asked whether he/she is Hispanic/Latino.

—      Second, the student is asked to identify his/her race(s) by selecting one or more of five racial categories.  These five categories are: American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian; Black or African American; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White.

Columbia has ethnicity and race data on file for most students as a result of a previous invitation to self-identify on the admissions application.  However, because the Department of Education is encouraging educational institutions to allow students the opportunity to re-identify their ethnicity and race under the new standards, Columbia is now inviting its students to participate in a re-survey.

Please note that refusal to provide the requested information will not subject any student to adverse treatment.  The information will be kept confidential and will be used only in accordance with applicable laws, executive orders, and government regulations.

To complete the survey, please log in to SSOL using the following link: https://ssol.columbia.edu/?tran[1]_tran_name=ssuv. The survey will also be available via a regular homepage link in SSOL.

If you have any questions about this survey, or if you have difficulty accessing it, please email [email protected]. If you would like to review the Department of Education’s Final Guidance, it can be found at http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/other/2007-4/101907c.html.  A set of questions and answers published by the government on the new format can be found at http://surveys.nces.ed.gov/ipeds/visFaq_re.aspx.

We request that you respond to the survey by November 30, 2009.  Thank you for your participation.

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21 Comments

  1. ???

    White

    A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

  2. Hispanic  

    ...is white? Mestizo people would be white and native, but the Native category says that you have to have tribal affiliation. What if you're just mestizo and you don't consider yourself any of the races?

    • then  

      you just don't have to answer....

      "Providing the information below is optional and based on your self-identification. If you choose to participate, please answer both questions by clicking on the appropriate box or boxes."

      Nothing about this is required.

  3. ethnic studies  

    Where's the 'race is a social construct' box?

  4. ...  

    "Columbia has ethnicity and race data on file for most students as a
    result of a previous invitation to self-identify on the admissions
    application. However, because the Department of Education is
    encouraging educational institutions to allow students the opportunity
    to re-identify their ethnicity and race under the new standards,
    Columbia is now inviting its students to participate in a re-survey."

    ...because even the federal government understands that at application time people will stretch the truth and lie through their teeth to try and take advantage of affirmative action policies, they've asked us to ask you again and with the idea that you'll be truthful this time. if your old answer doesn't match your new one, we won't kick you out. promise.

  5. fyi  

    the university maintains a list of people who identify as lgbtq.

  6. Well,

    I know there are ostensibly well-meaning programs behind this, but keeping such central databases and asking for such personal information in such a direct manner is just quite frankly disturbing, as far as I'm concerned. At the very least, a questionnaire of this sort should not appear on a centralized website to which students turn to find out their registration status and grades. Is no one in agreement?

    • What do you expect?  

      The whole race/ethnicity question is nothing new. It's practically on every government application. Besides, what's wrong with using SSOL for this? It already carries a shitload of our personal information.

      Hee. Can you imagine Columbia asking us our race via Surveymonkey?

      • Yes,

        believe it I would prefer the alternative suggested in the last line. I simply don't think that placing such an intrusive question on a site so explicitly associated with information about a student's academic merit is at all appropriate, and it moreover implicitly establishes an atmosphere of mandated participation-- notwithstanding the assertion of optionality buried towards the end of the email, several lines before the words "we request that you respond." I think the format is downright obnoxious. If the intent was to allow multiracial students to change their racial identification, this could have been achieved through a simple, discretely phrased email.

        • Someone

          may counter what I just said by saying that an email was in fact sent, and may question how I propose that the information be communicated. I meant to say "email with an invitation to voluntarily submit the information to the relevant sources," and by "voluntary" I meant something other than a red-lettered directive automatically triggered by a login to the registrar, subsequently emphasized by a similarly authoritative missive.

  7. Anonymous  

    What if you don't know your race?
    They should have that.
    Aside from being latino, I have no clue no white or black or "American Indian" I am.
    ...and I honestly don't give a F^^k as long as people stop calling me/us spanish.

  8. Middle Easterners:  

    Jews, Arabs, Turks whatever they are, aren't white.

  9. North Africans  

    = white? Well that's news to me considering I'm pretty dark-skinned...thank you, US Government for telling me what color I am.

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