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New Scrutiny for Women's Programs

University of Minnesota ends requirement that some scholarships go to women. Tulane evaluates its programs limited to women. Other institutions face new complaints.

November 5, 2018
 
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The University of Minnesota Twin Cities changed eligibility requirements last week for two formerly women-only scholarships and will review an additional women-only faculty award after an alumnus complained that the scholarships discriminated against men.

The Carol E. Macpherson Memorial Scholarship was established to provide scholarship money to “women-identified” students who are over 28 years old and returning to school to complete their education. The Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló Scholarship also provided financial aid to “women-identified students” with a “special focus on women of color, new immigrants and first-generation college students,” according to the University of Minnesota website.

The language on the website has since changed. Eligibility for the Carol E. Macpherson Memorial Scholarship is “under review” and will be determined by the spring of 2019. All students, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, are now eligible for the Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló Scholarship.

The University of Minnesota did not respond to Inside Higher Ed’s request for comment, but officials issued the following statement to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which first reported the story.

“The university is committed to offering access and opportunity to individuals of all gender identities. The university regularly reviews the selection criteria for scholarships to ensure, among other things, that they are consistent with evolving understandings of gender identity and laws protecting against discrimination based on gender identity,” the statement read.

Mark Perry, a professor of finance and business economics at the University of Michigan at Flint, complained to Minnesota, his alma mater, after discovering that several scholarships and awards favored women in ways that he said violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.

In the past, Perry has made complaints that led to the closure of a women’s lounge at Michigan State University and asked the University of Michigan at Flint to change eligibility requirements for several scholarships and programs.

Perry described his efforts as a “lifelong mission that I’ve taken on now as a civil rights advocate for true gender equality through Title IX.”

Some have criticized his campaigns, saying women face serious discrimination and harassment in higher education, and that Perry's efforts divert colleges from focusing on those issues.

"It’s illegal to [give preferential treatment to women], and I think the only way it would be justified is if women are underrepresented, which they aren’t … and they haven’t been for the last 35 years," Perry said in response to those criticisms.

After asking the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to review nearly 50 scholarships, awards and programs for women, Perry filed a complaint with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights against the university, which he often chooses to do if he cannot resolve a complaint with the university internally. On Saturday, he asked the University of Virginia to investigate nine externally funded scholarships and programs available to female students at the university's Darden School of Business for compliance with Title IX policy.

Perry said he will continue to ask colleges to re-examine women-only scholarships.

“At least for now, my main focus is on major universities … that accept and get tons of federal funding and tons of taxpayer support -- they’re the ones who would be the most likely targets for these kinds of complaints,” he said.

Perry isn’t alone in advocating for men's equality in higher education. Recently, Tulane University received an Office for Civil Rights complaint about the Newcomb College Institute, an organization at Tulane that provides scholarships, clubs and activities for women. The institute grew out of Newcomb College, which was once a women's college affiliated with Tulane.

In response to the complaint, Michael Strecker, a spokesperson for Tulane, issued a statement.

“NCI is working with the [Office for Civil Rights] to ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. NCI is evaluating opening participation in its programs to all Tulane students as part of its mission of educating undergraduates for women’s leadership. In cases where funding was given to NCI with specific gender restrictions, the institute will honor those restrictions to the extent allowed by law. Tulane’s commitment to NCI, one of its premier academic centers serving undergraduates, remains steadfast,” the statement read in part.

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