UW Continues Unlawful Discrimination, Despite Harvard Ruling

WILL demands that the University ends race discrimination once and for all

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is asking the University of Wisconsin to investigate and reform several discriminatory programs that remain active despite last summer’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. Officials at UW have promised to bring the system into compliance with that landmark decision, but many illegal policies persist.
The Quote: Dan Lennington, WILL Deputy Counsel, stated, “We appreciate that the University of Wisconsin has made progress toward promoting true equality since the Harvard decision, especially during negotiations with the Legislature, but more work must be done. The University should continue its efforts by investigating remaining race-based programs, and reform those programs so that assistance and services can be distributed based on merit and need, not crude racial categories.”
Discriminatory Practices: While our letter contains the full list of discriminatory practices, below are some important examples of recent race-based programs:
The Board of Regents 2024 Diversity Awards. On February 9, 2024, the Board of Regents presented “Diversity Awards” worth $7,500 each to “students who are members of historically underrepresented populations (including African American, Native America, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, and Southeast Asian), first-generation and/or economically disadvantaged.” Race is used here as a preference since some students who are not first-generation or economically disadvantaged were disqualified by their race. This is illegal and unconstitutional.
UW-Madison Kemper-Knapp Fellowship. UW-Madison’s Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education advertises and administers a fellowship open to students “from underrepresented backgrounds, such as students of color and low-income first-generation students.” By its own terms, some students will not be on an equal footing to compete for this scholarship based on race.
UW-Madison BIPOC Fellows Program. The “Community Engaged BIPOC Fellows Program” is a scholarship program for “undergraduate Students of Color.” This program is currently the subject of a federal civil rights complaint. It is illegal because it discriminates based on race.
UW-Madison Marion McCammond Award. This award is for an “outstanding student of color.” Awards and scholarships based on race are illegal and unconstitutional.
The letter also identifies race-based programs at other campuses, including UW-Green Bay, UW-Parkside, and UW-Whitewater.
About WILL’s Efforts: WILL’s Equality Under the Law Project has been in place since 2021 and WILL attorneys have represented over 50 clients in 18 states. All clients are represented pro bono.
In June 2023, the United States Supreme Court decided that colleges and universities may no longer use race as a factor in admissions. This practice, commonly called “affirmative action,” was declared unconstitutional in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. That decision, however, has much broader implications: it confirms that federal civil rights laws demand “colorblind” treatment of all individuals in America. Since the Harvard Decision, WILL has launched numerous legal challenges to race-based, discriminatory programs across the country.
Find out more at will-law.org/equality.
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Dan Lennington

Dan Lennington

Deputy Counsel

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