Professor Uses Title IX Against Women-Only Programs at University of Michigan

In the wake of gender inclusive changes like the Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA and Canada’s national anthem changing to gender neutral words, one professor thinks gender-exclusive campus programs, camps, and awards at the University of Michigan are in need of change.

Mark J. Perry, a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus filed a complaint to the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil rights over twenty-eight programs and awards he claims are discriminatory and exclusionary based on gender by excluding men and non-binary genders and therefore are in violation of Title IX.

According to the Department of Education, Title IX protects from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Subverse spoke with Mark J. Perry about his complaint at the American Enterprise Institute on Saturday, where he is a visiting scholar and publishes a regular public policy blog Carpe Diem.

“There’s clear guidelines on the office for civil rights that says anybody can file a Title IX complaint,” Perry said. “You do not have to be the victim of sexual assault or sexual discrimination or gender discrimination. You don’t need what’s called legal standing because you’re not filing a lawsuit.”

The list of twenty-eight complaints includes four camps, as well as over thirty scholarships, awards, fellowships, initiatives, and organizations that exclude men and non-binary genders. While programs and initiatives claim to support underrepresented individuals, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, women have out-enrolled men in colleges since 1970.

A 2014 Pew Research Center analysis found that women out-enroll men across all ethnicities, with the current gender gap being the widest in history at ten percent. The National Bureau for Economic Research published a study in January 2016 detailing that college attendance relies more heavily on parent income and earnings for men than women.

For a number of these complaints, Perry points to the University of Michigan’s Statement of Nondiscrimination, in which the university claims it is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions.

Perry also cites the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative passed in 2006, also known as Proposal 2, states Michigan shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting. This initiative prohibits Affirmative Action at Michigan universities.

After trying to resolve these complaints internally at the University of Michigan, Perry received an email from the Title IX office coordinator stating they do not believe the programs violate Title IX and recommended the programs clarify their language.

“[The Title IX office is] required by federal law to compile a detailed rationale for their findings, whether it’s for sexual assault or for sexual discrimination– in this case sexual discrimination, gender discrimination– and then they’re supposed to advise you of any legal remedy that you might have for an appeal beyond their office, and they didn’t do that,” Perry told Subverse.

The National Bureau for Education Statistics shows women are the majority of students achieving degrees, but the degrees which women are not seeking as actively as men are computer science and engineering. Some of the gender-specific initiatives at University of Michigan listed in the complaint aim at encouraging and supporting women to enter these fields, such as the Girls in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Student Organization, the Ensemble of CSE Ladies, and the Computer Science Kickstart Program.

Although some programs and awards listed in the complaint are independent of the University, Perry argues that the University uses its resources and website for the advertisement and promotion of discriminatory and exclusionary programs. Following the Title IX office dismissal of his investigation request, Perry submitted the complaint to the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of Education.

“If a private, single-gender organization like the YWCA wants to have special STEM programs, classes, field trips, scholarships or camps for girls only, that’s fine,” Perry said. “Those programs should be external to universities. If a university has a Girls Code Camp, they should also have a Boys Code Camp. Or they should have an All-Gender Code Camp.”

This isn’t Perry’s first attempt at rectifying gender discriminatory practices on college campuses. In 2016, he filed a civil rights complaint against Michigan State University for providing a women-only student lounge and no men-only lounge. As a result, MSU closed the women-only lounge and reopened it as a all-gender student lounge.

Perry plans to continue his independent advocacy for equal opportunity for the University of Michigan campuses as well as other higher education institutions. Although some of his complaints rectify quickly and internally, others take longer and more complex routes to find resolution.

Watch Tim Pool interview Mark J Perry

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