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Conservative group files civil rights complaint against UW, alleging discrimination against white students in fellowship program

Photo courtesy Morgridge Center for Public Service.

The Equal Protection Project (EPP), a project of the right-wing Legal Insurrection Foundation, has filed a complaint with the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Right against the University of Wisconsin-Madison, alleging that the BIPOC Fellowship program run by the Morgridge Center for Public Service is illegal because it discriminates against white students.

The fellowship provides a $500 scholarship as well as mentorship and experience in community engagement work. Applicants must be an undergraduate student at UW-Madison and “a member of a historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group or community.”

“The BIPOC Fellows program at UW-Madison makes clear that students who do not meet
the prerequisite racial categories – for example, students who identify as white – are
automatically ineligible,” the complaint says. “The discrimination is apparent: if applicants are African American/Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Hispanic/Latino(a), or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, they are automatically eligible for the program. Applicants who do not fall into one of those racial categories are automatically excluded from consideration.”

The complaint cites the recent United States Supreme Court decision prohibiting colleges and universities from considering race in admissions.

“UW-Madison needs to come up with a remedial plan to compensate students shut out of the BIPOC Fellows program on the basis of race and ethnicity. Real harm has been done to students,” EPP founder William A. Jacobson said in an email to Madison365.

UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said the university has not yet been notified of the complaint.

“UW-Madison has not been notified by OCR of any complaint. If we are, we will cooperate with any review,” he said. “As an institution of higher education, UW–Madison is committed to attracting and serving students from diverse social, economic and ethnic backgrounds, and being responsive to groups that have been traditionally underserved by higher education.”

The complaint comes on the heels of a federal lawsuit against the State Bar, alleging that its “Diverse Clerkship Program” discriminates against white students, and a month after the state legislature successfully negotiated a 33 percent reduction in DEI staff at UW in exchange for funding and pay raises for staff.

A message left with the Office of Civil Rights was not returned Monday afternoon.