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Civil Rights Office for Civil Rights Title IX

More victories from my efforts to advance civil rights and challenge systemic sexism in higher education

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By:  Mark J. Perry
     November 5, 2020

I was informed yesterday by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that another of my (now) 244 complaints (probably the most ever filed by a single individual, at least for single-sex programs) alleging Title IX violations in higher education has been successfully resolved in my favor. That brings the total number of Title IX complaints to date that have been favorably resolved to 30 and there are close to 100 ongoing federal OCR investigations based on my complaints that I expect to also be successfully resolved in my favor (given the clarity of Title IX’s legal standard above and the clear and frequent violations of that law in higher education). Successful resolutions are illegal Title IX violations involving sex-specific female-only programs that are corrected with one of three outcomes: 1) the discriminatory program is discontinued, 2) the discriminatory female-only program is offset with an equivalent male-only program, or 3) the discriminatory female-only program is converted to a coeducational program open to all genders.

Here is information about the latest successful resolution of one of my Title IX complaints to the OCR:

In May 2019 I filed a Title IX complaint with the OCR against Duke University for operating three single-sex, female-only programs that illegally excluded and discriminated against male students. In August 2019, the OCR opened an investigation of Duke for violating federal civil rights laws (Title IX) for these three programs:

1. The Duke University Marine Lab has annually hosted the Girls Exploring Science & Technology (GEST) event, which as the program name indicates is a single-sex, female-only program that provided middle school girls only the opportunity to participate in hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities alongside female scientists working in those fields.

2. Duke’s FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering, and Science) as the program name indicates is a single-sex, female-only student-led education outreach organization whose mission is to engage young girls (only) in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields through exciting hands-on activities and mentorship from female students and research faculty at universities. “In all components of FEMMES, female students and faculty members volunteer their time to instill enthusiasm about their careers in the developing minds of young women.” This education outreach program is discriminatory because it illegally excluded and discriminated against male students.

3. Girls STEM Day @ Duke as the program name indicates is an annual single-sex, girl only program that has taken place annually at Duke University in May for more than 100 middle and high schoogirls. This discriminatory program operated exclusively for girls and illegally excluded and discriminated against boys on the basis of sex against male students.

To resolve its Title IX violation, Duke University expressed an interest in voluntarily resolving the complaint before the completion of OCR’s investigation and signed a Voluntary Resolution Agreement (VRA) to address in allegations. In that VRA Duke agreed to decide by January 2021 whether it will: a) discontinue its discriminatory, single-sex, female-only programs or b) convert the female-only programs to coeducational programs open to all students and participants regardless of sex. If Duke chooses option (b) the university will also change the names of the programs “to eliminate any suggestion that they are for a single-sex and ensure that all communications related to the programs effectively communicate that the programs coeducational.” There is also an option for Duke to maintain the discriminatory names GEST and FEMMES but only if the university “can develop and implement strategies to effectively communicate to the applicable University community and the public that the programs notwithstanding their names are open to all students regardless of sex.”

From my experience, it’s easier for most universities to discontinue their illegal, discriminatory single-sex, female-only programs than to redesign them as coeducational programs open to all students including males. The programs and their supporters, staff, participants, and donors are too psychologically vested in female-only programs and it creates too much cognitive dissonance and consternation trying to get “buy-in” from key constituents to open those programs to males. The commitment to provide illegal special preferences to females usually outweighs any concern to legally provide equal educational opportunities to males, and it’s therefore easier to just discontinue and drop the discriminatory program than to include males.

And the graphic above from the current FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science) website (see any patterns?) makes it seem like Duke hasn’t yet accepted the fact that it was just found by the OCR to be in violation of Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination. And it hasn’t yet accepted that the female-only FEMMES program is violating its own anti-discrimination policy (edited slightly for humor):

Duke University is committed to ensuring an environment free of prohibited discrimination, and our policies encourage an inclusive community that respects and values all of its members [except for males until we got caught].

In accordance with federal laws, Duke University does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex [except for males until we got caught], sexual orientation, or veteran status. We expand these protections further by also prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression [except for males until we got caught].

It’s always both amusing and disappointing that so many universities so pretentiously, pompously and yet disingenuously profess their commitment to non-discrimination while at the same time discriminating on the basis of sex so openly and brazenly??

Here are some other updates on my civil rights advocacy:

1. In October, Western Washington University entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with the OCR to resolve its Title IX violation for hosting and offering the “Girls Engineering Math and Science (GEMS) Academy,” which as the name indicates was a discriminatory, single-sex, female-only program that illegally excluded boys. The university was given until November 20 to decide if it would discontinue its discriminatory girl-only program or convert it to a coeducational program open to all genders include males. Given the fact that the program website no longer works, I’ll assume the university shut the illegal program down rather than legally open it to boys. Too much cognitive dissonance, too much vested interest in girls, and not enough buy-in to include boys, see above.

2. Also in October, Oregon State University resolved the federal investigation of its Title IX violation for offering five discriminatory illegal female-only faculty awards by opening the five awards “to anyone in the OSU community who has worked to advance gender equity.” Prediction: The awards will continue to be given to female faculty, but at least male faculty will now be technically eligible to receive these awards. We’ll call this a hollow Title IX victory.

3. In the last month, the OCR has opened 11 federal investigations of civil rights (Title VI and IX) violations based on my complaints for the following universities in the last month:

a. The University of Connecticut for its Outstanding Senior Women Academic Achievement Award, the Women Of Color Collective (WOCC) Event (Title VI), and the Men’s Project, a single-sex, male-only program “to train students who identify as male to positively influence their peers by challenging social norms that promote gender-based violence; understanding their connection to survivors of gender-based violence; and role modeling effective bystander interventions.” This is my first Title IX complaint for a male-only program. However, the program is offered through the university’s Women Center, so I suspect it’s probably a program for men to address their toxicity and privilege.

b. Yale University’s School of Management for a series of illegal, discriminatory single-sex, female-only programs including Programs for WomenWomen’s Leadership Program Live Online, the Women’s Leadership Program, the Women’s Leadership Program Online, and Women on Boards.

c. The University of Alabama Birmingham for six discriminatory, single-sex, female-only staff, student, and faculty awards.

d. University of Connecticut for its BOLD Women’s Leadership Network.

e. Loyola Marymount University for hosting and partnering with the girl-only Project Scientist program.

f. University of Wisconsin Madison for its discriminatory Center for the Advancement of Women in Science and Medicine.

g. University of Minnesota for its Women’s Leadership Institute and the Women In Leadership program in the Carlson School of Management.

h. SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry for its Girls’ Summit program.

i. California Institute of Technology for hosting the discriminatory Project Scientist organization.

j. Lakeland Community College (Ohio) for its Woman of Achievement Awards.

k. State University of New York Albany for a variety of 14 different single-sex, female-only scholarships, awards, centers, academies, initiatives, and programs. This is a good example of a university that has tolerated illegal sex discrimination and allowed it to spread unchecked throughout the entire university. I’m sure I haven’t yet uncovered many other civil rights violations at SUNY-Albany as an outsider reviewing its websites.

Bottom Line: A university that tolerates and promotes so much illegal sex discrimination must either not even be aware that they are violating federal civil rights laws or be aware but not care because they think it’s acceptable to discriminate against certain groups. And SUNY Albany’s not alone, they’re fairly typical of the hundreds of American universities that practice systemic sexism with impunity. So either they’re ignorant of federal laws prohibiting discrimination or they think they’re above the law. In either case, it’s a sad indictment of “higher” education.

More Victories from My Efforts to Advance Civil Rights and Challenge Systemic Sexism in Higher Education