WILL Files Federal Discrimination Complaint Against University in the Wake of Nationwide Pro-Hamas Protests

Northwestern University pursues illegal, discriminatory program to appease protestors on campus   


The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) has filed a federal Title VI complaint against Northwestern University on behalf of the Young America’s Foundation, which has an active chapter on the University’s campus. The complaint documents the University’s plan to offer nearly $1.9 million in scholarship funds, faculty positions, and student-organization space to Palestinian students and staff. As a recipient of federal funds, Northwestern University is subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “on the grounds of race, color, or national origin.” 

The Quotes: WILL Deputy Counsel, Dan Lennington, stated, “Our message to Northwestern University and any other university is simple: if you do this, we will take legal action. The Constitution and federal law are clear, and this agreement concocted with radical pro-Hamas protestors is illegal.”  

Vic Bernson, Vice President and General Counsel for YAF, stated, “What Northwestern is doing here is completely pathetic.  It’s a perfect encapsulation of the infantile DEI mindset in action: those committing illegal acts and spewing antisemitic bile are justified, so let’s not challenge them but instead give them everything they want and they’ll go away.  But it never works that way, does it?  Appease awful people making awful demands, and they’ll always respond by demanding even more. This is pure cowardice and lunacy, and YAF will fight back with every fiber of our being.”


Additional Background: On April 29, 2024, University officials entered into an agreement with anti-Israel demonstrators occupying a space on campus called Deering Meadow. The officials involved in the agreement are University President Michael Schill, Provost Kathleen Hagerty, and Vice President Susan Davis. Under the agreement, the University promised to provide the “full cost of attendance for five Palestinian undergraduates to attend Northwestern for the duration of their undergraduate careers.” 

The agreement also provides “funding two faculty per year for two years,” with the provision that these faculty will be “Palestinian faculty.” Finally, the University promises to “provide immediate temporary space for MENA/Muslim students.” MENA is an acronym for “Middle Eastern and North African” individuals. 

Our Legal Grounds: As a recipient of federal funds, the University is subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “on the grounds of race, color, or national origin.” By providing nearly $1.9 million in scholarships, two faculty positions, and “immediate temporary space” based on an individual’s status as Palestinian or MENA, the University is intentionally discriminating against non-Palestinian or non-MENA individuals on the grounds of race, color, or national origin.  

As the United States Supreme Court recently held in a case applying Title VI, race and national origin may never operate as a “negative” or a “stereotype.” Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard Coll., 600 U.S. 181, 218 (2023). Discrimination in favor of Palestinians or MENA individuals is, in turn, discrimination against individuals not within those categories and is therefore illegal under federal law. 

WILL’s Equality Under the Law Project: Since 2021, WILL attorneys have represented over 50 clients in 20 states as part of its Equality Under the Law Project. So far, WILL has won six times in court, and with many cases still pending.  WILL was recently awarded over $350,000 by a federal court after it successfully sued the Biden Administration for race discrimination. Find out more at will-law.org/equality.   



Dan Lennington

Dan Lennington

Deputy Counsel

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