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College Under Fire for Photoshopping Billboard

February 5, 2019
by Susan Dutca
College Under Fire for Photoshopping Billboard

York College of Pennsylvania is under scrutiny for "Photoshopping" a billboard in order to appear more diverse by replacing white students with students "who reflected diversity." Manipulating marketing tools to appear more diverse in college admissions materials is not uncommon, according to Inside Higher Ed.

York College's new billboard headlines "Envision the Possibilities at York College," with eight students from various racial backgrounds, smiling. However, the original photo featured two white students who were replaced by an Asian and a Muslim student. According to the photographer, the school "wanted a more diverse billboard, so we had to get two other students, and we put them in there. When they went to show the person that had to approve the photo, it wasn't approved, so they had to rush to fix the problem." A college spokesperson states that the "photo reflects the diversity of students who live and learn at York College. All those included are York College students. In an effort to reinforce inclusivity, we attempt to ensure that all students are represented and welcome." York had considered replacing the billboard but admitted that they "were up against a deadline, but we should have made a better decision."

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that the original photo may better reflect the diversity of the college, where 82 percent of York students are white, 6 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent black, 4 percent two or more races and 2 percent Asian, and with 1 percent or less for various other categories. York is not the first college to be "caught using Photoshop to project university," either. Following similar incidents at two universities in 2000, "many admissions marketing leaders vowed to be more careful."

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