Title VI investigation opened over AUx2 Black affinity sections

University cooperating with Office of Civil Rights Investigation after external complaint

Title VI investigation opened over AUx2 Black affinity sections

The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into a discrimination complaint against American University’s AUx2 course. The complaint alleges that the course’s Black affinity sections discriminate against non-Black students, violating Title VI.

Title VI prohibits race-based discrimination by institutions that receive federal funding, according to the Department of Education.

Mark Perry, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan-Flint, filed the complaint and considers himself a “higher education watchdog … on a one-man mission to expose all of the violations of Title IX and Title VI.”

“I’m not suing for damages, so you don’t need an individual who has suffered some kind of individualized discrimination,” Perry said. “You can just file as a citizen to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Because this is racially exclusive or racially restricted and race segregated, then that’s a violation because then the Black students are being treated differently than non-Black students because they get their own course section.”

Arthur Stallworth, an AUx instructor, teaches AUx2 affinity sections and referred The Eagle to University communications for comment.

In a statement to The Eagle on behalf of Dean of Undergraduate Education Jessica Waters and the AUx Office, Elizabeth Deal, assistant vice president for community and internal communication wrote, “as part of the University’s commitment to inclusive excellence and following the AUx curriculum, the AUx2 Black affinity sections provide an in-class experience which encourages dialogue and community building. The affinity sections are open to all students needing to fulfill the AUx2 course requirement.”

Deal wrote in an email to The Eagle that Perry “files hundreds of these complaints against universities around the country based on his personal views, not firsthand knowledge of the programs. That is important context here.”

Perry has filed over 400 complaints against universities, about 200 of which were investigated, and over 100 resolved in Perry’s favor. Perry documents his complaints on his blog, which is published by American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank. According to Perry’s blog, many of his complaints have been against programs for women in STEM. Perry lists his accomplishments as including converting Wake Forest University School of Medicine’s Girls in STEM program into a coeducational program, Wayne State University canceling its Black Girls Code program and the University of Minnesota terminating its women-only gym hours. 

Perry said he first learned about the affinity sections of AUx2 from an anonymous tip on the campus bias tip line hosted by the Young America's Foundation, a conservative organization. 

“There was some evidence on the University website, but even more evidence of the alleged discrimination in the newspaper article that appeared in The Eagle,” Perry said. 

Perry said the University will have to evaluate the issue with its federal council and legal offices and decide whether to correct the issue or to challenge the complaint.

“The complaint will be dismissed, which really means that it has been resolved because the university resolved the issue and made the correction during the course of the investigation,” Perry said.

If the University does not voluntarily fix the issues identified in the complaint, the Office of Civil Rights will issue a voluntary resolution agreement, in which the OCR will tell the University how they must resolve the issues and oversee the resolution.

“OCR can confirm there is an open investigation into American University under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance from the Department of Education,” Alberta Betancourt, press officer for the Department of Education, said. 

Perry says that he files his complaints solely based on whether universities are violating Title VI while accepting tax-payer funding. 

“Even if it advances their mission, they can’t discriminate on the basis of race or sex to advance their mission,” Perry said.

In response to the complaint, the University said the AUx2 Black affinity sections are beneficial to students, but did not explicitly indicate that it plans to challenge the complaint.

“The pilot of these sections last spring yielded positive initial results and we continue to develop the program in line with our academic standards and the needs of our students,” Deal wrote. “The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reviews Title VI complaints and the University is cooperating with them to provide information, clarify any misperceptions in the complaint, and resolve the matter.”

apritchard@theeagleonline.com and aturner@theeagleonline.com 

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle

Would you like to support our work? Donate here to The Eagle Innovation Fund.