Summer of Discrimination; Schools Still Run Race-Exclusive Programs

Article excerpt

Byline: Edward Blum and Roger Clegg, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

This month Princeton University and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that they were ending the racial exclusivity of certain summer programs at their respective schools. What's remarkable is that it took them this long.

In neither case was the decision entirely voluntary. The Center for Equal Opportunity and the American Civil Rights Institute contacted Princeton on January 8 this year after we received a fax (from the brother of a disgruntled alumnus) regarding its Junior Summer Institute. Eligibility has been limited to "students of color," and we pointed out that this violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans "discrimination" "on the ground of race, color, or national origin" by recipients of federal funds (and this includes most universities).

We suggested, therefore, that Princeton open the program "to all students, regardless of skin color or ancestry." We also said that, if we didn't receive a satisfactory response, we would file a formal complaint with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, which administers Title VI for the federal government with respect to federally funded schools.

Princeton looked at its program and reached the conclusion that we were right. Indeed, it turns out that five years ago the Ford Foundation, which had initially funded the program, had also reached this conclusion and had thus stopped its funding.

MIT's story is a bit more complicated. We first wrote to its senior counsel on February 20, 2001, after receiving a complaint from a parent whose child was ineligible for its summer program, which excluded whites and Asians. MIT said it was confident that its program was consistent with federal law, and so we filed a complaint with OCR, which launched an investigation.

That investigation is still ongoing, but in the course of it MIT has concluded that, indeed, a racially exclusive program is indefensible. "Our best advice was that for racially exclusive programs, our chances of winning were essentially zero," said Robert P. Redwine, MIT's dean of undergraduate education. The university's senior counsel added that its decision was based on "an analysis of what our peers were doing around the country, and what conclusion other institutions have reached." So MIT has decided to end the racial exclusivity of its summer programs, too. …