UCLA Survey Shows Freshmen Approval of Casual Sex Declines

By Frosina Panovska Hoya Staff Writer

A Higher Education Research Institute survey conducted this fall by UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies showed a drastic change in college students’ opinions about many pertinent social issues, including declines in support for abortion rights and interest in political issues in general.

Sixty-three percent of Georgetown’s entering students participated in the Higher Education Research Institute survey at the beginning of the year.

The study, now in its 33rd year, covers a wide array of topics and subjects with a look at how the attitudes and aspirations of college freshmen have changed over time.

This year’s report finds a decline in support for abortion and casual sex. According to the survey, 51 percent of freshmen this year believe that abortion should be legal, compared to only 37 percent at the beginning of the decade. Casual sex is also viewed less favorably, with only 40 percent of the freshmen, a record low proportion, supporting it. A decade ago, half of the freshmen condoned casual sex. The survey reports another decline, in students’ interest in politics. A new low of 25.9 percent of respondents believe that politics is an important factor in their social life. This number is less than half the 1966 percentage (57.8 percent).

The students’ inclination to discuss politics has decreased as well. As reported by the survey, only 14 percent said that they discussed politics frequently this year, whereas 29.9 percent did so in 1968. Georgetown students, however, showed no signs of political apathy. UCLA press release showed that 62 percent believe that “keeping up to date with political affairs” is an important life goal, and 32.8 percent are “likely to discuss politics.”

Freshmen did not seem as interested in their course work as they once were, the survey found. A record high of 38 percent of the freshmen said they were often bored in class in high school, compared to a low of 26 percent in 1985. Although the percentage of Georgetown students reporting that they had often been bored in high school classes was even higher than the norm (41.9 percent vs. 38 percent), they missed class at the rate of 1.3 percentage points less than freshmen nationwide, who missed class at a rate of 34.5 percent.

Interestingly, students seemed more inclined to work in their communities instead of doing their homework. Volunteerism has continued to climb; 74.2 percent of freshmen were involved in volunteer work during their last year of high school, slightly up from a year ago. Georgetown’s freshmen reported doing volunteer work in high school at a rate of 93.4 percent, 20 percentage points higher than the national figure.

For the first time, the survey also asked questions about the use of the Internet and e-mail. The study reveals that use of the Internet as an educational and research tool is widespread among students, with 82.9 percent using the Internet for research or homework.

Nearly two-thirds (65.9 percent) of students surveyed communicate via e-mail. More than half of the freshmen said they participated in Internet chat rooms, and 80 percent said they played computer games at least occasionally.

“Our findings show that the Internet has become a way of life for the majority of students,” said survey director Linda J. Sax in a UCLA press release. “What remains to be seen, however, is whether proficiency on the Internet enhances student learning during college.”

Conducted in continued association with the American Council on Education, the UCLA survey is the nation’s longest standing and most comprehensive assessment of student attitudes and plans. It was based on the responses of 275,811 students at 469 two- and four-year institutions.

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