MIT accused of discrimination for women of color scholars program

A federal civil rights complaint accuses the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of discrimination over a program that offers resources and mentorships to students who are women of color.

The complaint, filed with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), alleges that MIT’s Creative Regal Women of Knowledge program (CRWN) discriminates on the basis of both sex and race by offering its resources to women of color.

The mission of the CRWN program, according to its website, is “to inspire undergraduate women of color to move confidently as visionaries, grounded in excellence, empathy, and support for one another.”

CRWN offers students networking, mentoring, social outings and financial assistance.

The undergraduate program, the site notes, defines women of color as Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islanders, and “other minoritized ethnicities,” and includes transgender women, cisgender women, and non-binary women.

The complaint, from the Rhode Island-based conservative Legal Insurrection Foundation, alleges that the program violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars race and sex discrimination in federally-funded enterprises like education, as well as OCR guidance.

“Discrimination against white applicants is just as unlawful as discrimination against black or other non-white applicants,” the complaint argues.

The Independent has contacted the MIT Office of Minority Education, which runs the CRWN, for comment.

Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee launched an investigation into allegations of antisemitism at MIT, and students have also sued the school over allegations it allowed antisemitism on campus.

The group bringing the complaint has challenged academic programs across the country offering specialized resources on the basis of a student’s identity.

Such programs have frequently been the target of conservative groups.

Last year, the US Supreme Court struck down the use of race as a factor in university admisssions, the building block of decades worth of affirmative action programs.

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