The Corner

Education

Trump Administration Stops a Racially Exclusive Awards Program

Kudos to the Trump administration, Washington University in St. Louis, and the Center for Equal Opportunity (where I’m general counsel). The occasion is the recent resolution reached regarding a complaint that CEO filed with the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights about an illegally discriminatory program being run by the university.

The program at issue granted various awards to WUSL students, but only if they were black. A poster advertising the program was sent by a member of the university community to us, and we filed a complaint with OCR. The resolution agreement makes this program — and indeed other WUSL financial-aid programs that may have been race-restricted — open to all students “without regard to race, color or national origin.”  The complaint that we filed with OCR (and the poster that we attached to the complaint), as well as the letter we received from OCR this month (which attached the determination letter and the resolution), are posted on CEO’s website here.

Whatever one thinks of racially preferential programs — and CEO opposes them all — a program that is not only racially preferential, but racially exclusive, is illegal. The Supreme Court has narrowly upheld the use of race and ethnicity by schools only as part of a calculus in which students are given “individualized consideration”; if students are told they cannot even apply to a program unless they are the right color, then obviously no individualized consideration is being given.

Any school currently engaging in such discrimination is vulnerable to complaints like the one we filed.  And so we hope: (a) such a school would not end the program, but change it so that it is open to all students; and (b) if the discrimination persists, then anyone aware of such discrimination bring it to the attention of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which can be done by visiting its website here.

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