Country Music Association’s ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ Fellowship Discriminates Against White Students, Complaint Says

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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A Country Music Association (CMA) summer fellowship racially discriminates against students by only accepting applicants who identify as black or indigenous people of color (BIPOC), University of Michigan emeritus professor Mark Perry alleged in a Tuesday complaint obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The CMA Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship is open to BIPOC students at the University of Alabama, the University of Tennessee and Belmont University and provides students with on-the-job experience in the country music industry. Perry filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights because the program allegedly violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits race-based discrimination, according to the email. (RELATED: Minnesota School District ‘Illegally Excluded’ White Students From Drug Abuse Prevention Grant, Complaint Alleges)

“When universities like Alabama, Tennessee and Belmont accept Federal financial assistance, they are legally required to actively enforce all federal anti-discrimination laws including Title VI (prohibits race-based discrimination) and Title IX (prohibits sex-based discrimination),” Perry told the DCNF. “These universities must regularly certify to the Department of Education that they are not allowing any sex-based or race-based discrimination to take place on their campuses.”

Mark Perry OCR Complaint CMA-2 by Alexa Schwerha on Scribd

Perry informed the universities of his complaint on Tuesday and alleged that each institution violated its own non-discrimination policies, all of which state the university does not discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin.

OCR CMA Complaint by Alexa Schwerha on Scribd

The CMA Diversity & Inclusion Fellowship provides “a select group of BIPOC students with an immersive experience in the Country Music industry, offering qualifying students an insider look into CMA’s Communications team in the weeks leading into the 50th anniversary of CMA Fest,” according to its application form. Selected participants, who must be a junior or senior majoring in a public relations, journalism, advertising, business or a related field, will gain “real world experience in the industry” and be matched with a mentor for the duration of the program.

The fellowship application asked prospective students to identify their gender and racial/ethnic identity. It also asked students to upload a three minute video explaining how they would advise a country music artist who wants “to reach a much more diverse audience.”

Perry suggested in his email to the universities that the fellowship be revised to include all students, regardless of race.

“This is just one more disappointing example of dozens in recent years of colleges and universities either being cluelessly unaware that this type of BIPOC-only (no whites allowed) discrimination is illegal or they are instead inexcusably unconcerned about violating the civil rights of certain groups (white, non-BIPOC students in this case),” Perry told the DCNF. “Universities like these three should maybe be required by the OCR to have their administrators and staff undergo remedial civil rights training so that they learn that BIPOC-only, no whites allowed programs like the music Fellowship are illegal.”

The OCR told the DCNF it “does not confirm specific complaints.”

University of Tennessee, University of Alabama, Belmont University and the CMA did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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