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Boise State discriminates in scholarships, but quietly pretends not to

Boise State discriminates in scholarships, but quietly pretends not to

Anna Miller
August 29, 2022

Though the United States Office of Civil Rights (OCR) continues to investigate Boise State University for its discriminatory scholarship programs, Boise State will allow men to apply for the “Women in STEM, Medicine and Law Scholarship.”

As we explained in April, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits any discrimination on the basis of sex in all institutions that receive federal monies. 

Everything about the “Women in STEM” scholarship shows that it discriminates against males. The title suggests it is for women only. The eligibility criteria indicate that “preference is given to females.” But Boise State officials have, in two ways, made cosmetic changes to its eligibility requirements to make it appear that men are eligible for the “Women in STEM” scholarship.

First, on one webpage Boise State officials celebrated how the “scholarship was created to help female students at Boise State.” 

Now, they have added an asterisk next to the word female and included a disclaimer in a very small font at the bottom of the page that reads: “Boise State awards this scholarship in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of protected characteristics.” 

Second, while the eligibility criteria still note that “preference is given to females,” another disclaimer has been added since the summer claiming that “selection will be made without disadvantaging students on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, or national origin.” 

Boise State loudly proclaims that it will discriminate but hides its nondiscrimination ambiguously in the fine print. 

 The “Women in STEM Scholarship” is not the only discriminatory scholarship offered at BSU. Mark Perry, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Michigan, challenged Boise State’s Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) scholarship on July 16, 2022. The LSAMP scholarship violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, in several ways  The LSAMP scholarship “is restricted to students who identify as being from one of more of the following underrepresented minority backgrounds. . . African American/Black, Hispanic, Native American/Indian, and, or Pacific Islander.” 

Boise State will probably soon include more fine print to explain away its illegal practices. 

Based on dozens of recent rulings by the OCR that have determined that similar female-only or female-preferred scholarship violate Title IX, Perry does not think that Boise State’s recent addition of a cosmetic “legal fig leaf” to its illegal “Women in STEM” scholarship program will allow it to survive OCR’s ongoing federal investigation. According to federal civil rights laws (both Title VI and Title IX), “disparate treatment” is illegal, and universities are prohibited from treating students differently on the basis of sex or race when determining their eligibility for financial aid or academic programs. Both the Women in STEM scholarship and LSAMP scholarship are engaging in illegal “disparate treatment” by giving certain students preferential treatment on the basis of sex or race.

In addition to violating federal civil rights laws, these Boise State programs also plainly violate state law that outlaws preferences for women or minorities in public education. If the OCR drops the ball, Idaho’s Attorney General could bring Idaho’s universities into compliance with Idaho law. Either way, BSU’s illegal discrimination against students based on their race and sex cannot be allowed to continue.

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