The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) was hit with a civil rights complaint Sunday over a program it runs for “Black filmmakers, creative technologists and artists.”
The “Black Public Media Residency” program, launched in partnership with a local nonprofit in 2022, seeks applications for projects where “a person of African descent is in a key creative position,” according to the program FAQ section. The Legal Insurrection Foundation’s Equal Protection Project asked the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Sunday to “investigate the blatantly discriminatory” program.
The university’s “creation, ongoing sponsorship and active promotion” of it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the complaint.
“While the law has been clear for decades that racial discrimination in education is unlawful, after the Supreme Court’s Harvard decision there can be no doubt that universities may not even take race into account to advance diversity objectives,” Cornell Law professor and founder of EqualProtect.org William A. Jacobson said in a statement. “Yet that is exactly what the U. Nebraska-Lincoln program does, it reserves a spot on program teams for black students in order to foster diversity, creating a disadvantage and lessening of opportunities for others.” (RELATED: Med School Slapped With Civil Rights Complaint Over Racial ‘Preference’ In Pre-College Program)
Jacobson said the way the program makes students “complicit” in discrimination is “offensive and troubling.”
“The racial discrimination of the U. Nebraska-Lincoln program is particularly pernicious because it requires that student teams organize themselves around race, with one team member required to be black,” he said. “This puts students in the position of choosing among their peers focused on race.”
The Equal Protection Project previously filed complaints against the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo for two pre-college medical science programs that “explicitly give admissions preference based on race and skin color” and SUNY Buffalo’s School of Law for an undergraduate summer program it alleges also gives preference based on skin color.
“We have not received a copy of the complaint from the Office for Civil Rights,” UNL Chief Communications Officer Melissa Lee told the DCNF. “When we do, we will respond appropriately.”
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