aurora network logo

No (BLACK) Activism, Please

July 2019

In an article in “Sociology of Race and Ethnicity”, Ted Thornhill from Florida Gulf Coast University reports on a study on how white admissions councilors screen black prospective students. The article “We want black students, not just you”, argues that white admissions councilors are less positive towards black applicants who they see as too openly concerned with race and racism.

In his study, Thornhill constructed four types of black students’ inquiry letters, differing in their key interest (cultural, environmental, political) and who helped them identify the specific university they wrote to. He found that white admissions councilors were less responsive to  black students with open race-conscious letters. Although the conclusion that it is the black political activist stance that lowers the students chances is not implausible, the author ignores one important factor: he didn’t investigate whether white students with racially activist letters would also get less response from the same white admission councilors.

The article is also interesting because its literature review part shows that HE institutions in the US (only in the US?) tend to overstate their diversity strategy, ambitions and reality. University leaders tend to think that racial relations are tense at most campuses, but not on their own.

Back to newsletters