College admissions leaders say – over and over and over again – that they don’t want to recruit Nazis. And a new study suggests that – when it comes to vocal white identity – colleges are more likely to consider white students who aren’t involved in White Power activism.
The study, published in the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, gives a nod to Barack Obama’s recent speech at the University of Illinois. The title of the paper is “Nazis Are Bad: There, We Said It.”
Fred Underhill, a tenured professor of sociology at Florida State University, sent emails on behalf of fictitious white students to admissions counselors nationwide, asking if the student would be “a good fit.”
The emails did not explicitly say the students were white, but the names were chosen because most people would perceive the fake students to be Aryan. For example, emails came from names such as Klaus Barbie, Hermann Göring, and Eva Braun.
The messages themselves fell into two distinct categories. Some were “deracialized and racially apolitical” while others specifically referenced activism in white supremacist groups.
For example, one “racially apoliticial” email from “Rudolf Hess” said he was doing well in math and history, playing on the soccer team, and was a member of student government.
Emails in the other category overtly referenced white identity and white activism. One claimed that “Joachim von Ribbentrop” had founded a high school White Power study group and spent time at the local shooting range with fellow skinheads.
Underhill compared the response rates of the different email texts and found that those from the first group were more likely to get a response than the second group, by a margin of 65 to 55 percent.
The impact was larger when comparing emails which specifically talked about White Power activism: the response rate was 100 percentage points lower.
“There is a clear, but unexpected, pattern whereby admissions counselors are literally guaranteed to ignore high school students who say they are active white supremacists,” said Underhill. “These findings are even more important this year, after many college leaders made a point of saying what everyone already knew. Nazis are bad.”