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Freshmen reveal social consciences.

Interest in racial issues and social change among entering college freshmen increased sharply in 1992, according to the 27th annual survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), under the sponsorship of the American Council on Education. The percentage of students for whom helping to promote racial understanding is an essential or very important goal rose to an all-time high of 42% (up from 33.7% in 1991). Similarly, a record high of 85.1% (compared to 79.7% in 1991) disagree with the proposition that racial discrimination no longer is a major problem in America.

"The circumstances surrounding [the spring 1992] riots in Los Angeles seem to have been the catalyst for a re-examination of racial issues across the nation," notes survey director Eric L. Dey of the UCLA Graduate School of Education. "By and large, students have responded by recommiting themselves to promoting racial equality."

The national survey of 213,630 students at 404 colleges and universities indicates that 40.5% of freshmen participated in an organized demonstration. This figure continues a pattern of renewed participation in protests and other forms of activism, and is more than double the levels recorded during the late 1960s (15.5 and 16.3% in 1966 and 1967, respectively).

The survey also shows that the percentage of students who say influencing social values is an essential or very important goal in life reached an all-time high (43.3%, up from 39.6% in 1991), while the proportion wanting to influence the political structure remained near record levels (20.1%, compared with the 1990 high of 20.6%).

There also is continuing change in students' political identification. The percentage who classify their political views as liberal or far left increased to its highest point in 15 years (26.7%), while the endorsement of conservative or far right labels remained stable at 20.3%. This resurgence in political liberalism follows a trend that began several years ago, but the proportion of students with such views remains well below the lovels recorded during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The survey results were more mixed on issues of personal freedom. The percentage of students who agree that employers should be allowed to require drug testing of employees or job applicants increased for the fourth straight year to a record high (82.4%). The proportion of freshmen who believe that it is important to have laws prohibiting homosexual relationships dropped for the fifth straight year to its lowest point ever (37.6%). A clear majority also believe that "colleges should prohibit racist/sexist speech on campus" (61.2%).

Attitudes toward sexual conduct continue to change, with fewer students than ever agreeing that if two people really like each other, it's all right for them to have sex even if they've known each other only for a very short time (44.2%, down from 51% in 1990). Men, however, are nearly twice as likely to endorse this view (58.8% vs. 31.9% of women). Twenty-five percent of females reported that they frequently discussed safe sex, compared with 19% of males. The percentage of freshmen who believe that the only way to control AIDS is through widespread, mandatory testing declined for the fourth straight year to a new low of 63.5%.
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Title Annotation:college freshmen
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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