Wharton Study Shows the Shocking Result When Women and Minorities Email Their Professors

Marcie Bianco, PolicyMic, May 1, 2014


New research has found that university professors exhibit a bias in favor of their white male students, information that, while perhaps not unexpected, is seriously bad news for the nation’s aspiring academics.

According to a segment produced by NPR, researchers led by the Wharton School’s Katherine Milkman emailed 6,500 professors from 89 disciplines at the top 259 schools, pretending to be students. These emails replicated the same message; the only variable was the sender’s name–for example, “Brad Anderson, Meredith Roberts, Lamar Washington, LaToya Brown, Juanita Martinez, Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Wong, Mei Chen”–deliberately crafted in order to test the racial and gender bias in professor response.

The type of student who garnered the most responses? The white male. As Milkman told NPR, professors “ignored requests from women and minorities at a higher rate than requests from white males. . . . We see a 25-percentage-point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males versus women and minorities.”

“All they were measuring was how often professors wrote back agreeing to meet with the students,” notes NPR’s Shankar Vedantam. “And what they found was there were very large disparities. Women and minorities [were] systematically less likely to get responses from the professors, and also less likely to get positive responses from the professors.”

Faculty at private universities, business schools and those in “lucrative” (read: non-humanities) fields were more likely to discriminate than those at public schools or those who work in the humanities.

Racial bias was most evident against Asian students, which surprised researchers, who assumed the stereotype of “Asians as a model minority group” would be reflected in faculty response. The assumption, as well as the final data, reveal how both Southeast Asians and East Asians collectively remain the silent minority whose mythic “model minority” status conceals their lived discrimination in American culture.


Scholars behind this research attribute the difference to minorities entering college with “weaker academic skills,” which, they contend, can be countered by “building strong personal connections on the campus.” Unfortunately, as Milkman’s new study suggests, they are not even receiving this type of institutional support.

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  • Tom Thumb

    I’m sure when the professor reads the email, he can see which person is a serious student who deserves a response. The minorities, women and Asians always come off as complainers who no one wants to respond to.

    • Svigor

      The emails all had the same content.

      • Brian

        But the other emails the prof has gotten from these ethnic groups in the past did not, and that is the baseline for the response.

        • ncpride

          My thoughts exactly. The fact is, White males are the most likely to ask intelligent questions worthy of the professors time, and they know this from experience.

      • bilderbuster

        Maybe they chose to only answer the same silly question once.

    • APaige

      Yes. All the Black questions will be very basic and all the Asians will ask one question: “Will this be on the test?”.

    • Another aspect to the problem is that a university professor probably feels safe criticizing a white male student without worrying about a bias complaint and the resulting career damage this would cause. The litigation in which our protected classes like to indulge has made them about as pleasant to deal with as kryptonite, and they have nobody to blame but themselves.

      I taught laboratory chemistry at both CU Boulder and UNSW Sydney, but that was 25 years ago and 16 years ago, respectively. I am certain that the climate of political correctness at universities has become worse, rather than better since then. A white male professor who does not have tenure must feel as if he is walking through a minefield.

  • dd121

    So? Maybe the professor doesn’t take women and minorities as seriously as white men. Does that mean we should invoke the death penalty?

    • Anon

      It would be interesting to see them try. If nothing else, there would be far fewer people sitting on the fence.

  • Martel

    You will not find individuals more dedicated to diversity then those poisoning youth in universities and colleges. Ninety six percent of Ivy League donations are handed to the Democrat party, the leftist bias is obvious. These professors are willing, some risk their own job by approving programs to hire more minorities, but in their daily life, they are forced to associate certain behaviors with minorities. A multi ethnic society is not possible.

    • Anon

      Name one example of a republican…ANY republican, advocating pro-white policy.
      At least the demon rats, at one time, were the party of the Ku Klux Klan.

      • Martel

        What they were is irrelevant. Democrats want amnesty, fully discriminate against whites in language and policy, the republicans are better on both counts. Both do not advocate pro white policy, but republicans promote fewer policies which discriminate or harm whites. Both parties need to go, the democrats immediately, the repubs must be pushes to the right side as much as possible before an alternative is created.

      • DaveMed

        Romney was solid on immigration.

        • scottthestrategerist

          His words, maybe. His actions, no. 🙁

      • evilsandmich

        Jeff Sessions.

      • scottthestrategerist

        Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby of the truly great state of Alabama.

    • plaintruthforidiots

      It’s “more THAN”, you American idiot.

      • Martel

        Did you get spanked if you did not get all the words right?
        I suggest therapy.

  • So CAL Snowman

    The underlying assumption here is, of course, that ALL professors are White males and thus we perpetuate the systemic and institutional racism that is so prevalent in America but oddly no where else in the world.

    • Svigor

      Right. “The world is one nation” and “YT bad” are two of those lefty ideas that must not come into contact (leftist law of matter-antimatter relations – kaboom!); if they do, people might realize that the plight of the African in Japan is much worse than the plight of anyone in America, the plight of the Japanese in Kenya is much worse than the plight of anyone in America, the plight of the Palestinian in Israel is much worse than the plight of anyone in America, etc.

    • ViktorNN

      The thing about all those white male professors favoring white male students and thus perpetuating “systemic racism” is that it is almost a certainty that those white professors are liberals, and probably pretty far left liberals at that.

      If the left wants to purge campuses of racist leftist professors, it’s fine with me. I have to say I kind of enjoy seeing the left conduct its Terrors against its own people.

  • Luca

    So if I am a professor and I must prioritize my time, after many years I realize that the Asians probably don’t need my response immediately as they will find probably find the answers before I can get to them and responding to African and hispanic-Americans is generally time consuming, labor intensive and bears little results.

    So first I will respond to White’s, then Asians and finally if I have time leftover to waste I;ll whittle away at the African and hispanic students. That is of course, if they haven’t already dropped out by that time.

    • So CAL Snowman

      Asians and Indians probably flood the professor’s inbox demanding letters of recommendation for grad school or some fancy PhD course. The professors are probably overwhelmed by the volume of e-mails sent out by their Asian students. I know from first hand experience at UCSB that the Asians go out of their way to monopolize the professor’s office hours and any tutoring help they can get.

      • Intrep1d

        So when Asians use office hours and tutoring help it’s “monopolizing”, but what about when White students do? You’d consider it “conscientious” and “showing interest”, right? Let’s not spin this behavior into a negative when we all know it isn’t. Students have a right to be active in their learning and the pursuit of their futures.

        • FeuerSalamander

          Do whites do the same thing? It sounds, from the various comments, like they don’t.

          • Intrep1d

            Are you telling me that you don’t think White students use office hours or tutoring? Did you even go to college?

          • FeuerSalamander

            Yes, I went to college. You pose a sophistry. You are suggesting if white’s ever go to a professor then their behavior is the same as asians. That is clearly NOT the case according to people with first hand experience commenting here. They have said that whites go to genuinely get help learning and understanding while asians go to complain about a grade and to lobby for it to be changed. Commenters here also state that asians do this to the extreme, whereas whites do not often go to the professor. You can try to claim I do not have “credentials”to offer an opinion on this case by insinuating that I did not go to college and I do not have “experience” in this matter. You are wrong, I went to college. I never once went to a professor outside of class, never once went to the office to pester or complain or explain. I do have the ability to understand the comments of others and they are saying that asians exhibit a behavior here that is very “race specific” and it is something that whites do not do. I am white, and I did not do it. I figured I got the grade that I got because it reflected my performance, that to ask for it to be changed would have been extremely shameful. I think most whites feel the same way whereas the behavior of asians tells us there is a fundamental difference between the races in this respect.

          • Intrep1d

            There’s nothing wrong with debating answers or the interpretations of questions. That’s what students do, and professors should expect it as part of their job. Students from all backgrounds complain about grades, and from my experience, Asians don’t do it more than anyone else.

          • FeuerSalamander

            I am sorry you are asian and this hurts your feelings. Arguing with a professor about why he should change his mind about your answers and performance is NOT education! I am sorry you can not understand this. You are not there to make the professor see things YOUR way, you are there to learn. wow. you just confirm what they are saying about asians, about their arrogance and their inability to accept a defeat. Keep it up and prove the other comments right.

          • Intrep1d

            I’m not Asian. I just think you’re wrong.

          • FeuerSalamander

            well, you are taking this very personally, you are not looking at it objectively. Apparently, you see yourself in the behavior that is attributed to asians and you feel the need to defend it. Badgering a professor until he changes your grade is not “debate”, nor is it education” it is harassment until he gives in. It is using your will to compensate for your performance.

          • Intrep1d

            I’m not taking this personally. You are, just like everyone else whose comments get challenged around here.

          • FeuerSalamander

            You made the accusation that I didn’t know what I was talking about. Others did not make accusations, they related their experience. YOU are the one who accused them of a bias . You automatically assumed they could not be objective , you automatically assumed their perception was faulty, why is that?

        • FeuerSalamander

          asking a grade to be changed is not being active on one’s “education”, it is being active in one’s unearned advancement.

        • So CAL Snowman

          It is when the same handful of asians are at the profs office every single day.

        • DaveMed

          Well… there are conscientious students, and then there are gunners.

          I’m not going to accuse Asian students of being “too” hard-working, though. Anyone who uses that as some sort of slur is clearly grabbing at excuses.

  • The Final Solution

    Not at all surprised about the bias against Asians. My graduate school program was about 80% Asian – they were BY FAR most likely to complain about anything and everything. Sometimes a whole group of them would go and complain when they didn’t get the grade they wanted. Unlike white people who think they earn the grade the receive, Asians think their grades reflect unfairness because of their substandard language skills, as it rightly should.

    • ViktorNN

      I’d never even heard of going to a teacher and asking for my grade to be changed until I went to a college where a significant percentage of the student body was Asian. Hassling teachers over grades seems to be normal among Asians. In all my years of schooling in very white parts of the country, I’d never heard of such a thing. We white students accepted the grade we were given, and that was that.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    Next they should do a study on the number of spelling and grammatical errors in the emails of nonwhites vs. whites. Maybe the professors know by long experience who to take seriously and who not to.

  • THis could be that he dose not want to be left alone with women or a minority who could cry foul, and ruin his carreer. To many people have cryed wolf. Why would anyone want to be set up in a privet meeting.

    • jane johnson

      That’s exactly what I was thinking.

  • DaveMed

    The day I even open an email from someone named “LaToya” is the day I obviously have absolutely no purpose left on this earth. I value my time.

  • A prof’s time is valuable. His patience is limited. There is no racism here.

    When I was a professor, which ate up 30 years of my life, my experience was that certain students were a pain in the a**, with all due respect. White students were less so. Asians were a ROYAL pain in the rear. They are excuse makers and demanders par excellence.

    I tried to deal with them at the end of class rather than have them come to my office because I knew I was going to experience a huge waste of my time in dealing with their whining. I tried to help everyone equally, just in different ways.

    Some students want help learning the material. I was willing to spend hours with those. Others are looking for nothing but the prof to cut them some slack. I had less patience with them. White males and females especially wanted to learn the material and get a good grade. So did Mexicans for the most part, which might surprise some. But Asians who want to see a prof are BAD NEWS. Blacks rarely contacted me, except for a handful of highly assimilated blacks. I have little to report on them because we had so few of them.

    I also learned from the beginning of the semester which students were assertively arrogant and demanding. Regardless of race, I did my best to limit contact with them. Politeness and humbleness goes a long way in human relations. It’s far more important than race.

    • So CAL Snowman

      At UCSB I abandoned all hope of seeing the professor during office hours if my class had more than 10 Asians in it. They are insufferable and never believe themselves to be in the wrong.

      • Bingo. Absolutely right on. They want to argue over every test question they got wrong.

        • dcc2379

          I bet if you served a mess of ribs and watermelon for dessert, you’d get more blacks to visit. And to think, when you went to the restroom, you wouldn’t have to dust around your laptop.

          • r j p

            That’s because you wouldn’t have a laptop anymore.

    • Truthseeker

      See, now that’s interesting. I doubt there are many professors who’ll speak openly about the differences between students of various races, so most people who read this article won’t hear any counterpoint from the professor’s perspective. Instead, they’ll use it to confirm their belief that “institutional racism” is keeping down women and minorities.

    • FeuerSalamander

      By “Asians” are you referring to East Asians, or those from the Indian subcontinent. Is there a difference between these two categories of asians? Can you elaborate on why asians were so troublesome? My guess is that they function under a very high pressure to achieve, and that to them that means getting the grade, not learning the material.

      • Good question that I should have been more clear about in my answer.
        South Texas has attracted a lot of Vietnamese. They are a royal pain, due to living a hedonistic lifestyle, and perhaps due to low IQ. The small number of Chinese and Japanese around here are not into some high achievement Tiger Mom culture. They’ve adopted to the ways of the Hispanics. They are however, quite pushy in asserting that they’re right about test questions and such. The Hindus are also quite pushy: “I am making a C in this class, but all my other grades are A’s. What’s wrong with you, professor?”
        Blame the professor is a game that students of all races like to play. Some are more subtle about it than others.

  • Lewis33

    No Cohen’s or Goldberg’s? I guess they may mistake those as from a relative so…

  • Svigor

    Maybe profs know from experience that white males are the least likely to waste their time with BS?

    If not…

    Maybe the Asians would be better served by going to school in Asia, the Africans in Africa, the Indians in India, etc.

    Better get them away from those awful Europeans as quickly as possible, before they get hurt.

    Segregation – it’s the only way to protect “minorities” from the awful white man.

  • bubo

    I bet one reason why girls were less likely to get responses is the sexual harassment factor.

    • DiversityIsDeath

      Yes! I’m a chick and I was thinking the same thing.

      • Katherine McChesney

        I was also.

        • ncpride

          Things certainly are different now, and men have a lot to be paranoid about. When I was in Junior and High school, the guys went around pinching as many female fannies as they could, and the reaction varied. Some girls would giggle, or others may give them a tongue lashing, but it never crossed our minds to press charges for sexual assault, which is what happens these days.

          • Katherine McChesney

            I agree. I remember this happened to me in the early 60’s. It angered me and I ‘told them off’ but it would have never occurred to me to make a formal complaint against them. Times have changed now. But, remember that women have been guilty of the same behavior.

          • oddball1776

            When I was in Junior and High school, the guys went around pinching as many female fannies as they could

          • ncpride

            LOL… it’s true though. The difference then was we girls chalked it up to ‘boys will be boys’ and not the hysteria we have today where we have to tip toe around each other lest we are accused of, or actually charged with something when there was no malice intended.

          • oddball1776

            Apologies NCP, I’ve been informed that ‘fanny’ means something quite different in the US than it does in the UK.

            I’ve cancelled my flight.


          • ncpride

            Ah, I get it now. I’ve figured out what you thought it meant…oh my! No, ‘fanny’ is polite word for….backside here in the US.

  • Urbane Neanderthal

    It would be interesting to see which identical college application received the most ivy league acceptance offers.

    David Goldberg who volunteers to feed the homeless with his Synagogue


    John Smith who volunteers to feed the homeless with his Catholic church.

    • bilderbuster

      Or Thomas Patterson from Appalachia who’s home has no running water.

    • r j p

      I am unemployed and have thought about setting up three identical profiles on an employer website, one under my name, one under a sister’s name, and one under an obvious black name.

      • LHathaway

        On Walmart’s website they allow you to take a test that determines if you may be eligible for training in management. They also ask for your race and sex. Without a doubt, your race and sex have more to do with your ‘management suitability’ than how well you do on the test.

  • FeuerSalamander

    experience has taught these professors who is capable of an intelligent discussion and who is not

  • Truth Teller

    Kind of hard to believe when every college prof or TA or instructor manages to teach hatred of White men in every course including hard STEM classes.

  • Doomispixulated

    I think most college professors, being gay males, like white boys the best. Simple really.

    • FeuerSalamander

      none of my college professors were gay males, and I majored in art and took liberal arts electives. There was one effeminate professor that we thought was gay, but he was married and had children.

  • CourtneyfromAlabama

    I am sure that white male professors have learned by now that just about anything they say can be taken the wrong way by certain groups. I don’t blame them for treating those emails differently.

  • MBlanc46

    Why on earth should busy professors be expected to respond to bogus emails from political correctness Stalinists “pretending to be students”?

  • dcc2379

    This study proves nothing. There are so many variables, one does not know where to begin. For example, Friedchickenesia is a name that sticks out; the professor might have feared for his life when he got a message from such a person.

  • Anon

    I once had an interesting non-discussion with a graduate professor when going over the published guidelines for producing research. In a hilarious bit of hypocrisy, an example was given about so called “racism” where the “race” of people surveyed in a telephone interview was assumed by “how they spoke”. My point was, supposedly it was wrong to make assumptions based on race……except when you were guessing a person’s race by how they spoke. It took a good hour to make the professor understand that was a mutually exclusive set of assumptions. Either race exists and there are differences you can (and should) pay attention to. Or it does not…and hence, could literally not be able to tell a persons race simply by how they spoke. Extra points for being disrespectful to the point of assumption rather than just ask.
    My advice to the professor….professionally. Don’t raise the issue. Those working in the field, DO NOT DO SO IN GOOD FAITH. No one in that field had any interest whatsoever in discussing anything even tangential to the issue. But plenty were actively looking for heretics to burn at the stake.

  • NoName

    I had a professor who refused to communicate through email because of the potential for misinterpretation.

  • hastings88

    This may be manipulated research. I’m a professor, and we all know that we cannot treat students differently based on their race–or we will be in a load of trouble. I make absolutely certain to give all of my students all the time they request for assistance, and so does everyone else in my department. The one exception was an African-American prof. (now moved on) who openly stated at a meeting that he went out of his way to give African-American students more help. (The rest of us were stunned into silence.)

    • evilsandmich

      This may be manipulated research

      From NPR? Surely you jest! 😉

  • Reverend Bacon

    When I was teaching, I behaved similarly. If I thought that I was going to have a language barrier with the student, I blew it off. That means Hispanics, Asians, and often Blacks. As for the women: I wasn’t aware of any sexism on my part, but I was often worried about an appearance of impropriety, since I wasn’t much older than my students.

  • ViktorNN

    Since the vast and overwhelming majority of professors in academia are white liberals this is really a problem (if you want to call it that) of white liberals being racist against non-whites.

    What this suggests to me is that even white liberals in academia have a shred of racial solidarity towards their own still remaining, even after a lifetime of self-flagellation and self-hate.

    My message to them is wake up and join the many white former liberals who are now among the pro-white dissident movement in the U.S. and around the world.

  • LHathaway

    The professors didn’t want to meet in person young asian female student; those evil discriminators! Would be interesting, however, to see how many of the profs were women. And how many people of color.

  • plaintruthforidiots

    The VERY simple solution is for non-whites to simply STAY IN THEIR OWN COUNTRIES, with professors of their OWN RACE, then all these ‘problems’ won’t exist for them. I wonder why they don’t want to live in their own countries?

  • Garrett Brown

    I wouldn’t open an email from a negro named Letoya either. Smart professors.

  • Tom B

    Geeze, I thought 90% of professors were “liberals” espousing egalitarinaism. But deep down, they’re just a bunch of good ol’ boys! Now ain’t that curiously refreshing.

  • blight14

    My goodness, that finding is ‘shocking’………

  • Andy

    Maybe they thought they were more likely to have forgotten a name like “Brad Anderson” than “Deepak Patel”, so they believed Brad was really a student.

  • tetrapod

    As soon as I saw “NPR” and “Milkman” I had to “check” my white cynicism.

    As indicated by many posts in this forum, the Wharton “study” is full of more holes than an old pair of Jordans in Harlem.

    The only thing it demonstrates is that interactions are easier with one’s own kind, whereas they’re often a chore or PITA with others.

    Kudos Ms Milkman for pointing out the obvious.

  • Closet good ol’ boys?

  • Brian

    How many players do you think there are on a lacrosse team? And no one is assuming ‘every’ WM student is like anything. It’s, as usual, a matter of statistical patterns, not absolutes.

    I believe that everybody is innocent until proven guilty.
    The expression is ‘presumed innocent’, which makes a big difference.