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Racial Survey

Ashley DeShields

On September 21st, when students opened their MyLIU emails, they might have found an email that’s subject title didn’t fit in with the rest.  The subject title was “Race and Ethnic Background.”  The response many people had was, “What?”  Some students didn’t even open it to see what the contained. A few who opened it and read it didn’t bother taking the survey.  Some decided to take the survey.  They were disappointed at what they thought was the first page.  The first question was “Do you consider yourself to be Hispanic/Latino?” The answer choices were “Yes or No”.    The next question was, “In addition, please select one or more of the following racial categories to describe yourself,” and the options were as follows: “American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or White.”  After you chose from the options, you received a message saying that the survey was complete.

According to Rita Langdon for the school’s Office of Public Relations, “The University emailed a short two-question demographic survey to all LIU undergraduate and graduate students.”  The survey was very narrow, and a few people who I spoke to were very turned off by this.  Why?  Because they are multiracial; they don’t ascribe to one race or another. They consider themselves as both.  So, what were they supposed to click on? “Other” was not an option. A friend of mine, Sheila Abreu-Nuñes, a health care major, took the survey.  She said yes to the first question, and when she got to the second, she looked at me and said, “What do I do? I’m not any of these. I’m Hispanic; that’s it.” The U.S. Census Bureau does not regard Hispanic as a race, but, rather, as an ethnic group.  This definition goes against the grain of everyday people who define Hispanic as a race.  Many people who consider themselves Hispanic have to the define themselves as non-white Hispanic or white Hispanic.

The 1990 census was not as long as the current one.  Although, the census survey had the same races listed in the C.W. Post student survey, it included the option of  “other,” and many people who were of a Hispanic or Latino background selected that option and wrote Hispanic or Latino.   American culture has always tried to break things down by race; therefore, people like Abreu-Nunesmy are forced to define themselves by another person’s standards.

After Abreu-Nunesshe realized that the only questions where those two, she was not happy. “What’s the point of this anyway? Didn’t I do this already when I applied?” The answer to her question is yes. When you filled out your application, you did have to enter your race/ethnicity.  So, the school does have it on file, and one can go on or any other college website and find the breakdown of student demographics. One could say, though, that those breakdowns are not completely accurate.  For instance, according to, 3% of C.W. Post’s student body is Asian. When I told Ashley Staib, a music education major, she was shocked by that statistic.  Yet, C.W. Post does have a lot of foreign exchange students, more than some schools on Long Island.  Maybe, they aren’t accurately being represented.  Most likely, the University didn’t get an accurate picture of the student body from the recent survey either, but according to Rita Langdon for the Office or Public Relations, “The University emailed a short two-question demographic survey to all LIU undergraduate and graduate students.” Howver, as stated above, many some students didn’t bother even opening the email.  Others, like Ashley Staib, didn’t take it because there was not a viable option for her to click on for question number two.

Most likely, the University didn’t get an accurate picture of the student body. When the Pioneer contacted Mr. Claude Cheek, the University’s 
Associate Vice President and Director of the Office of Institutional Research, he didn’t comment on what the goal of the survey was, why it was given or how successful it was.  Instead, Rita Langdon replied for him that the reason for the survey was because “Long Island University is asked by many governmental and other outside agencies to provide statistics on the racial and ethnic background of students and employees.  For decades, the University has collected data related to the ethnicity of students, faculty and staff to meet federal and other governmental requirements. The Federal Higher Education Act revised the form of the questions regarding race and ethnicity.” This was the administration’s way of complying with that request.  The Pioneer could not obtain an answer as to how successful the survey was or if there could have been a more accurate and efficient way of getting the data the University needed.

We can only wonder and assume how successful the survey was, and one could speculate that it was not very successful.   Many students didn’t know about it at all because a fair percentage of our student body doesn’t use their MyLIU email because of how many times there are problems relating to the email system.  Others didn’t take it, expecting it to be long.  Still, others didn’t take it because the answers were unacceptable to them.

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