GMU Prof: Collegiate clubs 'perpetuate inequality'

A professor at George Mason University said that extracurricular activities serve "to perpetuate inequality."

One student at GMU called the claim "utterly ridiculous."

An assistant sociology professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia argues that extracurricular groups serve "to perpetuate inequality."

Sociology and anthropology professor Blake Silver at George Mason University wrote a book, titled, The Cost of Inclusion: How Student Conformity Leads to Inequality on College Campuses. After the book's publication, he did an interview with Inside Higher Ed, during which he made clear his stance that extracurricular activities "perpetuate inequality."

In the interview, he discussed how he conducted his research and explained how clubs are naturally problematic, believing they serve White students better and put minority students at an inherent disadvantage. 

He goes on to describe one White male student he used as a case study and was once was reserved and shy, in the club setting soon found those around him being “interested in hearing his ideas” and described this “phenomenon as centripetal elevation, whereby White men benefited from the deference and mentorship of peers who looked to them for direction or insight.”

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Comparing this trend with various groups he found that there were apparent disparities. saying that, "while women and racial/ethnic minority students frequently experienced a limited or contingent sense of belonging, most White men came to feel included in a variety of extracurricular settings.”

Silver’s research describes “how extracurricular involvement in its current form serves to perpetuate inequality rather than provide learning opportunities.” Silver further showcases that students often coming from their “segregated high schools,” often have not learned the “productive strategies for engaging with peers across socio-demographic differences.”

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He found that most college students often had fallen “back on their existing cultural tools,” as well as “relying on stereotypes to engage with one another and expecting peers to conform to those stereotypes.”

He said he believes that “rather than leaving students to their own devices, institutions can do more to build inclusive communities in higher education.” 

George Mason University student William Testwuide told Campus Reform the professor's argument is flawed. The student stated that he “finds it utterly ridiculous that professor Blake Silver believes that student clubs are racist or sexist.” 

“Professor Silver should know that students - regardless of their ethnicity or background, are not coerced into student groups and that participation in student groups are completely voluntary," Testwuide said.


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