Prof: 'Delusional' college admissions officers guilty of 'interracism'

Jesse Stiller
New Jersey Campus Correspondent

  • Florida Gulf Coast University professor Ted Thornhill sent four types of letters to white college admission officers, which varied in the degree to which they stressed fictitious students' interest in racially-themed activities.
  • He found that admission officers were more likely to respond to students who did not express interest in racially-themed activities.
  • A Florida Gulf Coast University sociology professor attacked white college admission officers, claiming that they exhibited patterns of “interracism” and prejudice against different types of black students based on their names and degree to which they are interested in "antiracist" activities.

    FGCU professor Ted Thornhill’s study, “We Want Black Students, Just Not You,” focuses on “Historically and Predominantly White Institutions” and accuses white college admission officers of “weeding out” certain types of black applicants. The American Sociology Association published the study in early September.

    “My findings indicate a clear pattern whereby white admissions counselors are more likely to ignore black high school students’ inquiry e-mails if they betray an acknowledgment of the continuing significance of white racism.”   

    “Whites can also discriminate against blacks and other people of color interracially on the basis of perceptions about the extent to which race informs a given individual’s self-concept," Thornhill wrote in the study.

    Professor Thornhill went as far as to call white admission officers “delusional,” writing that there was a noticeable disconnect between their delusions and evasive statements about racially hospitable environments on campus which, the study says, “highlight the presence of much white racism at [Historically and Predominantly White Institutions (HPWIs)].”

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    “Within  this  context,  it  would  be  unrealistic,  if  not  naive, to expect HPWIs to take seriously the grievances of student groups, largely black, and capitulate to their demands for antiracist policy interventions  in  anything  but  isolated  cases,  and  even  then,  only  in  a  tepid, fleeting, fragmented, and disingenuous manner,” Thornhill wrote, also suggesting that these colleges admitted blacks only to maintain “fictional, post-racial campuses.”

    The professor audited 517 white admissions officers at the same number of institutions for the study by sending four different letters to the admission officers. While the first and second templates of the four letters listed non-racially-themed activities like journalism and sustainability as interests of the fictitious students, the latter two templates indicated the fictitious student’s interest in African American history and culture, racial justice, white privilege, and microaggressions.

    Thornhill sent more than 1,000 emails, two for each counselor, and analyzed the email response, lag time, and whether or not he received a response from the same counselor to whom he sent the email. 

    While 65 percent of admission counselors responded to emails based on the first two templates, only 55 percent of admission counselors responded to emails based on the latter two templates, which Thornhill termed “racially salient.” The professor also noted that male counselors responded to the fourth, antiracist template, 25 percent less often than did their female counterparts. He also found that black female fictitious students were more likely to receive responses -- regardless of the counselor gender and email template -- than their male counterparts.

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    “My findings indicate a clear pattern whereby white admissions  counselors  are  more  likely  to  ignore black high school students’ inquiry e-mails if they betray  an  acknowledgment  of  the continuing  significance  of  white  racism.” Thornhill wrote.

    The professor pointed to “racist encounters” with peers in universally accepted safe spaces on American campuses in another section, titled “White racism on campus: the experiences of black students.” 

    “Studies have found that black students at HPWIs routinely experience white racism in classrooms, residence halls, faculty and academic advisers’ offices,  libraries, and other public spaces on and adjacent to campus,” Thornhill said.

    “Sometimes, the perpetrators are students.  In other instances, faculty members, staff members, campus police, or administrators are responsible," he added.

    The professor also stated that college policies and other practices and traditions, even within the safe spaces, were negating the purpose of these areas to equalize the environment, even alleging that colleges were intentionally directing resources away from black students to marginalize and punish them. 

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    Thornhill claims that these practices paved the way for campus protests about racial injustice, in which the institutions, according to Thornhill, diversified the campus setting by promoting racial equality on campuses both in the offices and on-campus events.

    The study was produced at a time where several racial incidents, some serious and some trivial, have increased on campuses, particularly with regard to the black community.

    Campus Reform reached out to Thornhill about the study, as well as FGCU’s college admission board, but neither the professor nor the college responded.

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    Jesse Stiller

    Jesse Stiller

    New Jersey Campus Correspondent

    Jesse Stiller is a New Jersey Campus Correspondent, and reports on liberal bias and abuse for Campus Reform. He studies at the College of New Jersey, where he studies journalism and writes for his school newspaper, the Signal.

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