Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Dishonest Survey on “Warriors”

The following essay appeared in the Marquette Tribune in November, 2004.


A lot of us were heartened when the Administration announced that it was going to do a survey of students, faculty, staff and alumni on the “Warriors” issue. That implied that they were actually going to listen to “stakeholders” rather than a narrow politically-correct bunch of activists.

Everyone reading this should have gotten notice of the survey by now. I’ve just taken it online.

It’s probably the most biased survey I’ve ever seen, including even the surveys that congressmen send their constituents. It is unbelievably tendentious, and throws into doubt the Administration’s claim to be willing to pay any attention to stakeholders.

The first notable thing about it is that it never asks the “bottom line” question: “Do you prefer ‘Golden Eagles’ or ‘Warriors’ as a nickname.” The obvious reason is that the Administration knew what the answer would be from the vast majority, and were scared of it.

Rather, the intention seemed to be to collect a lot of data that can be massaged and spun to support whatever the Administration wants to do.

Survey respondents are continually asked leading questions. For example, respondents are asked to “agree” or “disagree” with statements such as “If Marquette University were to change its athletics nickname again, it would appear to be inconsistent or ‘wishy-washy.’”

Then they are asked “If Marquette University were to change its athletics nickname back to Warriors, it would be a step backwards relative to Marquette’s current goals of promoting diversity.” No counter arguments that favor “Warriors” are presented. People are not asked “If Marquette changes its nickname back to ‘Warriors’ does it show respect to student and alumni opinion?” They are not asked “If Marquette changes its nickname back to ‘Warriors’ does it show that Marquette is courageous in correcting a mistake.”

People who take the survey are told that an alumnus offered two million dollars to Marquette if the nickname is changed, and then asked whether they agree or disagree that: “If Marquette University were to change its athletics nickname back to Warriors, it would give the appearance of having been ‘bought.’” This is an example of “poisoning the well” by trying to lead people to give a certain response.

Respondents are shown a series of photos of various incarnations of the Warriors mascot and asked whether “mascots and logos used by Marquette in the past might have been offensive to Native Americans.” The pictures show Willie Wampum (which arguably was offensive) and American Indian student Mark Denning’s rendition of the “First Warrior” (which most certainly wasn’t offensive). People are not allowed to say that some of the images are offensive, and the others aren’t.

But the most bizarre question of all is one what asks people whether “having winning athletics programs is more important . . . than the nickname, mascot and logo.” Apparently, if most people say that winning is more important, they intend to use this as an excuse to ignore the opinions of people who want “Warriors” as the nickname. As though the Trustees could somehow have a policy that Marquette teams will win.

As this is happening, solid social science evidence keeps coming in showing that real world Indians don’t object to Indian nicknames. A recent University of Pennsylvania survey found that 90 percent of a representative sample of Indians have no objection to the name “Redskins” as a team nickname. Only nine percent have any objection.

It’s ironic, and sad, when sound social science can’t be brought to bear on this issue in – of all places – a university. Instead we have the shabby spectacle of an administration “cooking” the data to promote its own agenda. As is all too typical in academia, they seem more attentive to noisy political activists than their own students, faculty, alumni and staff.