Do Universities Discriminate Against Black Political Activists in Their Admission Practices?

A new study from Florida Gulf Coast University has found that predominantly White colleges and universities are more likely to admit Black students who do not claim to have an interest in racial justice. The research was conducted by first creating email accounts for fictitious Black students with distinctly Black names that would signal to admissions counselors that the students emailing them were Black. Next, the researchers created email templates that asked if the “student” would be a good fit at the institution and demonstrated one of four areas of academic interest: math and English, environmental sustainability, African American studies, and racial justice. Finally two of the four templates were randomly sent to over 500 admissions counselors at private, predominantly White institutions, one month apart.

The results showed that admissions counselors were 26 percent less likely to respond to emails from Black students interested in racial justice. The effect was even more pronounced when the templates were sent to White male admissions counselors. They were 37 percent less likely to respond to Black students with these interests and 50 percent less likely if the Black students were women. Additionally, the study found that White male counselors were twice as likely to respond to Black women interested in environmental studies compared to racial studies.

To combat this effect, the researchers suggest that admissions administrators familiarize their staff with these findings. Additionally, they suggest that schools should start requiring a 100 percent response rate to all inquiry emails, conduct random audits on their admissions staff to evaluate their responsiveness and tone, and consistently enforce sanctions that prevent discrimination during the admissions process.


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