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Volume 68, Issue 137, Monday, April 21, 2003


Identity crisis?

Survey illustrates UH stereotypes -- most students have jobs, aren't involved

By Nikie Johnson
Senior Staff Writer

When one thinks of the typical UH student, certain characteristics may come to mind. This student may be older than a typical one. Probably working through college. Probably from Houston, almost certainly from Texas. Most likely complains about parking and tuition. Doesnit participate in extracurricular activities or go to athletics events on campus.

Behrooz Paizi/The Daily Cougar

A survey collecting a wide variety of responses from 500 students has put numbers to real-life attitudes and practices shared by UH students.

For the most part, thatis correct, according to a survey conducted by two sociology classes this semester. But within the data is some interesting information about just how students perceive campus and interact with one another.

"I thought it was interesting because now you actually have the numbers to test your preconceived notions," said Peter Sadza, a post-baccalaureate student studying psychology in one of the Introduction to Sociology classes that conducted the survey. Students in the class made up the 88-question survey and got 484 responses.

Location and money were the biggest reasons respondents came to UH; 40.5 percent said location, 18.4 percent because it is inexpensive and 17.4 percent because of scholarships or financial aid.

Family influence accounted for 6.4 percent of students coming to UH and 3.3 because friends were going here. Only 4.1 percent were drawn by the reputation of the University, a department or a faculty member.

Most students, 56.6 percent, are here to get a better job, and 30.2 percent are at UH to increase their education and improve their minds. The sociology professors, Jackie Hagan and Jenifer Bratter, said more females said they were here to enrich their minds while males were more likely to be in college to get better jobs. 

An equal number of students in the survey said they chose their major because of interest and because of job security or a good salary.

In general, students seem to think the education theyire getting is good: 64 percent said satisfactory and 20.9 percent said excellent. Only 5.4 percent were unsatisfied.

Respondents reinforced that with their ideas of what UH should spend its money on if extra dollars were available. Parking was on top, closely followed by lowering tuition and fees. Those were trailed by improvements to classrooms and buildings, getting more computers and hiring more faculty members to allow for smaller classes. Only a small number thought campus security, the Athletics Department or the library needed more money.

The idea that theyire getting a good education also showed up in their optimism of getting a job. Despite the bad economy, almost 80 percent had some degree of optimism about their chances after graduation.

As for textbook expenses, two-thirds of respondents spent between $176 and $400. Students were almost twice as likely to spend more than $250 as they were to spend less.

However, only 16.3 percent cited those textbooks as the key to their education. Almost half the respondents said they have learned the most from professors and lectures.

"I think that kind of challenges what people think," Hagan said, noting that perhaps distance education ? Internet and tape classes ? isnit as good as many people think.

Three-quarters of students spend eight hours per week or less studying. The biggest factors limiting study time are extracurricular activities and other social events (36 percent) and work (35.5 percent). Family demands prevented 11.8 percent of respondents from studying more.

Even though work limits so many students, only 15 percent said their own income was the primary way they were paying for college. Parents, spouses or other family members were the primary source of expenses for 45.6 percent of respondents, and financial aid or scholarships paid for 35.5 percent.

Students were split on academic honesty: If they went to a professoris office and saw next weekis test on the desk, 42 percent said they wouldnit look at it, with more not saying anything than reporting what theyid seen. However, 47 percent wouldnit be so honest: 31 percent would skim over it, 7 percent would read it closely and 9 percent would take it.

Academics are only half the college experience, but most UH students donit get the social aspects of their college education through campus activities.

Only a third of respondents said they participate in extracurricular activities. Respondents were most likely to participate in the Greek system, followed by athletics, academic associations, other social groups and cultural associations. 

Almost three-quarters of respondents read The Daily Cougar at least once a week, but 13.6 percent said they almost never read the Cougar.

Athletics didnit fare as well. Almost half the respondents donit go to any campus sporting events and a quarter only go to one or two per semester. Less than 10 percent go to more than four games per semester. Almost 40 percent, however, said they did keep up with UH sports through the media.

UHis mascot, Shasta, was only known by name to 59 percent of respondents, while another 29 percent only knew the mascot is a cougar. The University of Texasi mascot, Bevo, got a few votes, as did the soft drink Fanta, while 7.4 percent admitted they had no clue what the mascotis name is.

Respondents looked positively upon UHis diversity, although their feelings were more accepting than their practices. Twenty percent said that of their five closest friends, none were of a different race, and 18 percent said just one was. However, the majority said at least two were of a different race, and almost 20 percent said their parents were of a different race or ethnicity.

About 13 percent of respondents were in one of UHis racial, ethnic or international student organizations, but more than half said they would feel comfortable joining a campus group that was comprised mainly of students of a different ethnic group than their own.

More respondents had been in an interracial relationship than hadnit, but almost 66 percent said they approved the concept; 22.3 percent were neutral and 8.5 percent disapproved. The approval rating went down, but only by a few percentage points, for interracial marriage.

However, more than 30 percent said they had become more tolerant of interracial relationships since starting college. Most, 57 percent, said their feelings hadnit changed, but about 4 percent said they had become less tolerant. 

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