The University of Minnesota is facing a civil rights complaint for advertising a research program for students of color only.
“The University of Minnesota is engaging in unlawful discrimination through the Multicultural Summer Research Opportunities Program,” states a federal civil rights complaint filed against the school last week by the Equal Protection Project. “Racial discrimination by a public institution is illegal regardless of which race suffers.”
As of earlier this month, the website for the Multicultural Summer Research Opportunities Program (MSROP) said eligible students must “identify as a student of color or Native American.” However, that language has since been removed, presumably because of the civil rights complaint.
“MSROP is an intensive 10 week summer program in which undergraduate students of color work full-time with a faculty mentor on a research project,” the website for the program says.
To prevent the acceptance of white students, the application process mandates all applicants disclose their demographic information, according to the complaint, which provides screenshots of the university advertising the program to students of color only on social media.
MSROP participants receive a $6,000 personal stipend and an additional research stipend assigned by the professor overseeing the project.
The goal of the program is to help guide students into graduate studies in the future and “prepare students of color and Native Americans for graduate school.”
“The MSROP violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the civil rights complaint reads, noting that the program also violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In addition, it “violates Minnesota’s Human Rights Act, which makes it a criminal offense for an educational institution to limit access to any educational program on the basis of race.”
The Equal Protection Project filed the federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
“Insofar as the aim of the MSROP is to achieve racial balance, that is an objective that the Supreme Court has ‘repeatedly condemned as illegitimate’ and ‘patently unconstitutional,’” the complaint explains.
According to the university, the application deadline for MSROP was March 3, 2023, and applications were reviewed by staff. As the program only allows for around 15 participants, candidates were interviewed in March, and those who were chosen to participate in the program were notified in early April.
“The [Office for Civil Rights] should order that UMN’s discriminatory practices be discontinued immediately and take all necessary enforcement action to effectuate that order. This includes, if necessary, imposing fines, initiating administrative proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue federal financial assistance, and referring the case to the Department of Justice for judicial proceedings to enforce the rights of the United States,” the complaint suggests.
A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement on the U of M’s website says that it is trying to combat “bias within research practices.”
The school did not respond to a request for comment.