Elon University, a private educational institution located in North Carolina, has resurrected some of the most hateful and offensive features of the Jim Crow era—and all in the name of promoting “equity” and eradicating “white supremacy.”
The School of Education at Elon, which is dedicated to training our nation’s future teachers, sent an email invitation in February 2021 urging “white-identifying” students to join a weekly “White Caucus” Zoom meeting. As the text of the email made clear, no minority students were welcomed or invited.
“A white caucus is a space for white-identifying individuals to engage in conversations that unpack race and systemic oppression,” the email explained. “White caucuses allow white-identfying [sic] allies to have these conversations in a way that does not burden or re-traumatize people of color. White caucuses give white people a space to learn about and process their awareness of and complicity in unjust systems without harming their friends of color.”
Not only was the “white caucus” restricted to “white-identifying” individuals, its content was considered so potentially dangerous that participants were restricted from sharing anything that was discussed at the meetings or from “talk[ing] negatively about others outside the caucus.”
“White caucuses tend to be vulnerable spaces; being critically reflective and honest is a necessary part of unlearning white supremacy culture,” the email stated in an attempt to justify the extreme confidentiality rules.
This email was sent by Jennifer Strange, the school’s coordinator of graduate programs, to all students enrolled in the School of Education. It was also signed by a number of undergraduate students.
The email declared that it was “urgent” that white students join the caucus because “The School of Education mission statement commits to preparing equity-minded leaders…Participating in a white caucus is one step towards fulfilling this commitment for white-identifying students.”
“We know that racism and systemic oppression are woven deeply into the roots of our society and our education system…,” the email continued. “White caucusing is one part of a lifelong and multifaceted commitment to antiracism for white-identifying people who are passionate about racial justice.”
When questioned about the program’s legality by the conservative organization, Young America’s Foundation, Elon initially deflected the questions, responding that the school “has many different initiatives to promote racial understanding.”
Following the program’s exposure, Elon cancelled the racially segregated caucus, claiming that it had only just learned of the program. “Because this student-led program would have excluded non-white individuals, it would be at odds with university policies and will not be held,” said a statement released by the university.
As an institution that received federal funds, Elon must legally abide by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
Despite the university’s denials of having prior knowledge of the program, the student run campus media organization, Elon News Network, has uncovered that this is in fact the second semester for the whites-only program. Elon School of Education Dean Ann Bullock actually sent an email promoting the same White Caucus in September 2020, five months before the university claimed to have just discovered the exclusionary program’s existence. In that email, Bullock described the caucus “as part of the School of Education’s diversity, equity, inclusion initiatives.”
The Elon administration’s deliberate obfuscation regarding their knowledge of the whites-only program makes clear that it is only the recent media coverage—rather than the program’s clear illegality—that has led to its cancellation. Elon’s well deserves its place among America’s most racist universities.