A legal nonprofit has filed a civil rights complaint against the University of Nebraska at Lincoln over a residency program offered there for Black filmmakers, alleging it is “race-exclusive” and therefore illegal in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling striking down race-based affirmative action in admissions.
The nonprofit Equal Protection Project has been involved in a number of other challenges to race-conscious admissions and selective programs, most notably Students for Fair Admissions vs. Harvard University, in which it filed an amicus brief supporting SFFA.
The program under scrutiny is a partnership between Nebraska’s School of Emerging Media Arts and the nonprofit Black Public Media, the goal of which is to support “Black filmmakers, artists and creative technologists” by giving them access to training and resources. The residency was launched in the summer of 2022 and just finished its second year of operation.
“The racial discrimination of the program is particularly pernicious because it requires that student teams organize themselves around race, with one team member required to be Black,” EPP’s founder and director, Cornell Law professor William Jacobson, wrote in a statement Monday. “This puts students in the position of choosing among their peers focused on race. Making students complicit in the discrimination is offensive and troubling.”
The complaint rests on a broad interpretation of the Supreme Court decision’s implications beyond admissions, extending it to mean any race-specific program or selection process is inherently unconstitutional, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause—a view that is shared by many conservative interpreters of the ruling. It also suggests that using civil rights complaints could be a popular strategy for organizations seeking to enforce their interpretation of the Supreme Court decision.