Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Caught “White Handed” University of Minnesota Rethinks Discriminatory Internship

This is a typical good news, bad news story. First the good news. The University of Minnesota is rethinking a paid summer internship program that was originally advertised for Native Americans and students of color only.

The bad news is that the University of Minnesota actually thought that excluding white and Asian students was the proper thing to do. The rest of the bad news is, that until they were exposed and called out for the open discrimination, no one within the university stepped up to correct it.

In this case, the required smelling salts that had to be waived under the university’s nose came from of all places a Cornell University law professor, William Jacobson. Jacobson, and his group The Equal Protection Project of the Legal Insurrection Foundation, filed a complaint last week with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The internship was designed to prepare Native Americans and students of color for graduate school. Selected students would receive a $6,000 stipend for participating, according to the posting found on the school’s website.

In a recent interview, Jacobson spoke out against such discrimination.

“There is an increasing trend where people think it’s OK to discriminate on the basis of race as long as the discrimination is against whites or Asians or others, and we don’t accept that.”

According to the original listing on the University of Minnesota’s website, the Multicultural Summer Research Opportunities Program is “an intensive 10-week summer program in which undergraduate students of color work full-time with a faculty mentor on a research project.”

However, after the light of day was shown onto the injustice, the requirement of being Native American or a student of color was removed and replaced with the requirement that participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

In an interview with the New York Post Jacobson pointed out the pitfalls of such policies. Calling them “regressive” and saying that school officials were, “undoing civil-rights progress and taking the US back to the 1940s and 1950s.”

In a statement to the Post, a school representative stated that they, “regularly revisits the selection criteria across thousands of different grants, scholarships and other financial awards provided to our students each year.” Adding, that they would be, “evaluating the criteria for this student support program as part of this routine process and make any appropriate updates.”

Jacobson wasn’t satisfied and obviously doesn’t believe that this is the only time that the university has discriminated. In their complaint, Jacobson’s group requested that the Federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights strike down the discriminatory program immediately.

“We urge the U.S. Department of Education to fully investigate how pervasive segregationist practices are at the University of Minnesota. Federal funding should not be used to promote educational opportunities restricted by skin color. Federal funding for the University of Minnesota needs to be reevaluated.” 

Jacobson also disputed the university’s claim that the $6,000 wasn’t a payment, stating that a stipend of $6,000 was a payment.

He then pointed out what should have been obvious to the university, stating, “If this was a program that restricted participation to whites, there would be an absolute uproar, and we would be part of that uproar.”

It’s disheartening that it took an outside nonprofit legal firm to spotlight an obvious case of racial discrimination. To the school representative that claims they “regularly revisits the selection criteria across thousands of different grants, scholarships and other financial awards provided to our students each year.”

I would say, obviously not often, or thoroughly enough. This was a blatant exclusion of white and Asian students. Whoever put this program together, deliberately excluded them. I wouldn’t drop this investigation, even though the wording has been changed. I’m betting that the racists behind this will still try to choose only Native American or students of color and if they do, someone needs to have them justify those choices