A legal nonprofit has filed a federal civil rights complaint against Kansas State University, alleging an annual scholarship it promotes is racially discriminatory and violates federal law.
In its complaint, The Legal Insurrection Foundation’s Equal Protection Project alleges K-State’s Joey Lee Garmon Undergraduate Multicultural Student Scholarship violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act for recipients of federal money to create, support and promote a racially segregated program. It also alleges such conduct violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The organization, which was involved in the U.S. Supreme Court case challenging Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions policies earlier this year, filed the complaint Wednesday against K-State, with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in Kansas City.
According to the school’s website, the scholarship is designed for applicants “of an ethnic group that has been historically and traditionally oppressed in the achievement of academic and leadership endeavors.” K-State’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs awards five scholarships annually totaling $700, including three multicultural student scholarships and two social justice scholarships. Applicants must be of African American, American Indian, Asian American, and Latinx American heritage.
In a statement provided to KMAN, Cornell Law School Professor and founder of EqualProtect.org William A. Jacobson says, “Erecting barriers to access based on race and ethnicity is a constitutional and legal harm. There undoubtedly are students who will not bother to apply because they have the wrong skin color or ancestry. KSU not only needs to drop the racial litmus test, but also promote the fact that it is doing so.”
In a statement Thursday, Kansas State University noted it had not received a complaint from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights related to the scholarship saying, “if we do, the university will respond appropriately.”
The Equal Protection Project has previously filed similar civil rights complaints against programs at the State University of New York at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo’s School of Law and the University of Nebraska.