University of Idaho, Auburn U. Also Report Incidents of Doctored Photos
The University of Idaho has pulled a picture of nine students from the top of its Internet site after discovering that it had been altered to replace the heads of two White students with those of two minority students.
University President Dr. Robert A. Hoover says the picture was removed last month after the student newspaper made inquiries about its authenticity. It was replaced with a picture of the school’s sports arena.
About 8 percent of the University of Idaho’s 10,500 students are minorities, the largest bloc being Hispanic.
Hoover says a graphic artist who recently graduated but still works for the university altered the 1997 photo of the nine students. The artist, David Embleton, inserted the heads of a Black male student and an Asian male student and then posted it on the Web site late in the summer without informing his supervisors.
Hoover says apologies were being issued to the students whose images were involved in the alteration. Embleton will be disciplined, Hoover says, but will not lose his job at the school. “We will use this as a teaching moment with him,” he says.
The incident came on the heels of a similar incident at the University of Wisconsin. Last month, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the staff of the undergraduate admissions office decided to insert a Black student into a crowd of White football fans on a brochure to show the school had a diverse enrollment (see Black Issues, Oct. 12).
The brochure has been reprinted, and was sent with a letter of explanation to all identifiable recipients of the original version.
Idaho officials say they are struggling to make amends.
“This mistake is providing a natural opportunity for broader conversation about diversity issues on our campus,” Hoover says.
Hoover, along with Raúl Sánchez, special assistant for diversity and human rights at the university, met with student leaders and minority students to hash out the issue.
Meanwhile, Auburn University officials say their use of photo illustrations showing Black students in different settings is not an effort to misrepresent that school’s diversity.
Altered photos appear on the cover of the admissions office application packages and inside, Auburn spokesman Pete Pepinsky says. The campus telephone directory also has images of three Black students transposed so it appears they are walking on campus.
Pepinsky says Auburn officials do not try to distort the school’s racial diversity with the doctored photos. Auburn has 21,800 students, with 6.8 percent of the students being Black.
But none of the publications has a disclaimer indicating the illustrations are not pictures, but a collage of multiple images.
“At Auburn, we’ve done absolutely nothing to deceive or alter proportion of students of color or racial background,” he says. The university convenes focus groups to discuss the illustrations, he told The Auburn Plainsman, the student newspaper.
“In a cover, what we are creating is a pleasing image based on focus groups, and feedback from prospective students telling us what they want to see,” Pepinsky says.
Some on the campus consider the photographs misleading.
“It’s unfortunate,” says Glennis Curry, president of the Black Student Union. “It’s definitely misleading of the diversity of the campus.”
Jarvis Kimbrough, a mass communications junior who appears on the cover of this year’s prospective-student brochure, thinks the doctored pictures misrepresent Auburn.
“It’s an unfair and false image to project,” says Kimbrough. “Using it for (recruitment) is wrong. If they really want to show Auburn, show Auburn, the truth.”
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