Op-Ed Submission to Isthmus
Attempts by financially well-off parents to get their children admitted to elite private colleges and universities is the latest scandal to hit higher education. More illegal behavior is likely to emerge that goes well beyond the recent college admissions scandals.
The University of Wisconsin has its own not-yet-exposed scandal that is of a quite different kind. I refer to the numerous financial aid programs in the UW System and at UW-Madison that are open only to minority students. These programs violate both federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. The question: why haven’t these violations of the law been exposed and stopped?
Examples of UW-Madison scholarships/grants, well-advertised in UW websites, that are restricted to minority students include the Ben R. Lawton Minority Undergraduate Retention Grant Program that limits eligibility to what are known as “targeted minorities,” specifically African American, American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, and SE Asian student applicants. Among other programs with similarly restrictive minority-only eligibility requirements are the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, McNair Scholars Program, Advanced Opportunity Program, and the Summer Undergraduate Research Program.
Complaints about these violations have been made to the Board of Regents on a number of occasions, the first time in 1999. Following the Board’s brushing off another similar complaint in 2005, another complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that is charged with enforcing Title VI of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite the passage of 14 years, OCR has refused to rule on this well-documented, 29-page complaint.
The basis for these complaints, directed to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states:
No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
These minority-only programs also violate Wis. Stats. 36.12, which states:
Student discrimination prohibited. (1) No student may be denied admission to, or participation in or the benefits of, or be discriminated against in any service, program, course or facilities of the system or its institutions or centers because of the student’s race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status.
The evidence included in the 1999 and 2005 complaints makes abundantly clear the existence of numerous minority-only scholarship/grant programs both in the UW System and at UW-Madison.
The UW System Board of Regents and top campus administrators have long known about these violations, in particular, that the Lawton Program violates both Wis.Stats. 36.12, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The UW System legal staff has fought to prevent OCR from ruling on these complaints. OCR has demonstrated its willingness to go along with these delaying efforts by failing to rule on these complaints.
How can the UW System in good conscience persist in violating state and federal laws that it knows prohibit discrimination based on race, color, or national origin? Why haven’t its numerous lawyers in both Madison’s Bascom Hall and System’s offices in Van Hise, as well as top state officials, plus the UW’s diversity staff, pushed UW-Madison chancellor Becky Blank and UW System President Ray Cross, as well as the Board of Regents, to enforce the law by eliminating the restrictive eligibility requirements for these scholarship/grant programs.
Or is the University of Wisconsin’s commitment to “diversity” so much more important than its obligation to obey federal and state civil rights laws? Is this another scandal whose scope when revealed will undermine public support for and the integrity of the University of Wisconsin and its leadership?
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About the Author
At age 92 I decided to showcase my recent and current writings on a variety of topics outside of my career interests as an economist. My wife Sally’s dementia, my experiences of war, and my interests in improving higher education all compel me to write.
For most of the last decade I maintained a low profile, necessitated by my wife Sally's suffering from a decade-long siege of vascular dementia. After she passed away several years ago I wrote about our experience, in the belief that this would be helpful to the many others who suffer from dementia and their family caregivers. I am currently seeking a publisher for my book manuscript: The Forgotten: Dementia and the Right to Die.
Over the past few years I began working on several other writing projects that are described more fully elsewhere in my blog. These include a nearly-completed book manuscript on my "expected proficiencies approach to the college major'' as a vehicle for reinvigorating liberal education. I continue to write on the shortcomings of UW-Madison's affirmative action policies and programs that over the years have been renamed "diversity and inclusion" policies and programs.
Within two weeks of my graduation from UW-Madison in June 1950, the Korean War broke out. I was drafted and expected to be sent to Korea to join our fighting forces there. But instead I was sent to Turkey for 18 months. How lucky I was. I am also writing a memoir of my Korean War military experience when I served as an U.S. Army adviser in our military aid program in Turkey.
Until I began branching out beyond economics, I failed to realize what a profound effect the Great Depression and World War II had on me as I grew up. I have already captured some of these recollections, with more of them to follow.
With that introduction, I turn you over to my blog entries as well as my other writing projects described more fully elsewhere in my blog. Best wishes ~ W. Lee Hansen
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Award-winning author W. Lee Hansen, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Full bio.