No more discrimination at Oklahoma universities
On April 21, I filed two civil rights complaints with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). One is a Title VI Complaint about Racial and Ethnic Discrimination at the University of Oklahoma, and the other is a Title IX Complaint about Gender Discrimination at Oklahoma State University. ‘Oklahoma.
First, the Title VI violation was brought to my attention via a Tweeter by Mark Usley. He provided an electronic leaflet which was created by OU’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education and which is believed to have been sent to secondary school students by public schools in Normandy. The pamphlet offers “a taste of college life by spending a week on the OU-Norman campus” at the teaching college.
The problem is that the program is limited to “Black, Latino/a/x, Native American, or Native American students, or [from a] historically marginalized and/or underrepresented group. If you are a non-Hispanic white American and can’t find any other way to show that people like you have been “marginalized and/or underrepresented”, you are not eligible because of your race and your ethnic origin.
The program exists to “address the critical shortage of educators of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in the State of Oklahoma and across the country”, which is an unconscionable reason for such discrimination. Discriminatory racial classifications must reach a very high level, such as fixing actual discrimination in the same establishment in the recent past. Maybe OU is willing to say she discriminated against all of these races and ethnicities until recently, but that seems unlikely.
Moreover, assuming it is true that public schools in Normandy promoted this discriminatory curriculum to secondary school students, this act also violates Title VI. Promoting a discriminatory agenda is itself discrimination, because OCR interprets civil rights laws. Accordingly, my civil rights complaint points to both the OU and the public schools in Normandy.
Second, Oklahoma State University just posted about their STEM summer camps, which look great, except for the issue that one of the camps is “girls only.”
Tried to ask OSU officials if boys are allowed at Engineering Discovery for Girls camp anyway, because sometimes a program for girls is just for girls (using the stereotypes which may or may not be true ) but is actually open to everyone. I couldn’t get a straight answer.
An official wrote to me: “Our intention is to increase the number of girls interested in engineering. I appreciate the quick response, but it didn’t answer the question. Furthermore, the increase in the number of girls interested in engineering is an inadmissible ground for gender discrimination. Maybe OSU is willing to say it discriminated against women in STEM until recently, but that seems unlikely.
The OSU could save face by claiming that while this camp has always been open to boys, it made the mistake of not effectively communicating non-discrimination (which in itself is a violation). Any reasonable boy would watch “all girls” camp and understand that he will not be treated the same unless OSU makes an explicit statement reassuring the boys that OSU will not discriminate in this program. . The best way to do this is to change the name. “Especially for Girls” might skip the rally, for example.
Oklahoma universities continue to trample on civil rights by running discriminatory curricula or advertising discriminatory scholarships. Offenders stand to lose millions of dollars a year in federal funding. It’s time for university general counsel to have new conversations about compliance.