A Morning Edition story from NPR covered a recent field experiment in which emails were sent to more than 6,500 professors at the top 250 schools pretending to be the students. The letters to the faculty were all identical, but the names of the students were all different, including a diverse range such as Brad Anderson, Meredith Roberts, Lamar Washington, LaToya Brown, Juanita Martinez, Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Wong, and Mei Chen. The researchers measured how often professors wrote back agreeing to meet with the fictional students, and found some very large disparities in response rates. Names associated with women and minorities were systematically less likely to get responses from the professors and also less likely to get positive responses from the professors.
Some of the other interesting findings included no added benefit when women reached out to female faculty, nor when black students reached out to black faculty or when Hispanic students reached out to Hispanic faculty. There were also very large disparities between academic departments and between schools. Faculty at private schools were significantly more likely to discriminate against women and minorities than faculty at public schools. Discrimination was also tied to the lucrativeness of a professor’s field, so there was very little discrimination in the humanities, more in the natural sciences, and the discrimination found among the faculty at business schools.