Ethical Deception: Student Perceptions of Diversity in College Recruitment Materials

by Chris Dayley.
The use of images of students from traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds in college recruitment materials presents a seemingly difficult dilemma. Should colleges and universities use diversity in recruitment materials to try and attract students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds even if those images do not accurately represent the amount of diversity at the university? To discover student perceptions relating to this question, I used a mixed-methods approach in which I surveyed 117 students and then interviewed 10 survey participants. Survey and interview questions were based on utilitarian versus deontological ethics with an emphasis on whether exaggerating diversity in recruitment materials is ethl. The results of this exploratory study showed that most students believe using a disproportionate amount of diversity in recruitment materials is unethical. Student participants who identified as a person from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group indicated that it is unethical to exaggerate diversity in recruitment materials at a higher percentage than their white counterparts. This is likely because people from underrepresented backgrounds face a much higher risk of harm from misleading recruitment materials than their white peers.