The Impact of College Experience on Hate Crime Attitudes

Renay Metzger, University of Tennessee - Chattanooga

The Hate Crime Statistics Act has provided consistent evidence of the rate of hate crimes in America. Hate crime are equivalent in actions to criminal offenses as defined by the penal code. They stand apart, however, in that the motive of the perpetrator is used to define additional charges. College experience has been seen as one solution to lowering hate crime (Craig, 1999). The present study tested the hypothesis that a college education results in changes in hate crime attitudes.

A review by Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) concluded that those who attend college change their attitude in a number of different areas. Further, these changes are a result of attending a college or university, and not merely maturational. Other studies have found that during college, attitudes and values tend to become more open, liberal and tolerant (Kuriloff and Lottes, 1994). Some studies argue that a more open-minded attitude increases appreciation of others and reduces the probability of a hate crime. However, to date no study has directly investigated the influence of college on attitudes toward hate crimes. (Weil, 1984).

A pilot study examined the attitude of 161 college students from a southern regional university. A 22-item questionnaire was constructed and distributed equally to Freshmen and Seniors representing several majors. The psychometric properties of the scale showed internal consistency.

The results demonstrated there was evidence that college students favor hate crime laws, and they believe that police should consider the motive of an individual who has committed a crime. However, their attitudes did not change across the period of college. These findings may have resulted from a restriction in range and a revised questionnaire will be presented.

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Updated 05/20/2006