Last week, as first reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities removed gender-specific language from one scholarship and is putting another “under review.” The school is the most recent institution over the last few years to bend to pressure from men’s rights activists, who argue that women-only opportunities and spaces on college campuses defy the Title IX laws protecting students from discrimination based on factors such as gender.
The two scholarships that may soon be eligible to UM Twin Cities men, according to Inside Higher Ed, are the Carol E. Macpherson Memorial Scholarship and the Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barceló Scholarship. The former, which was available to young women-identified students returning to school after time away, is currently listed as being under review until 2019. The latter, which provided aid to women-identified students with a “special focus on women of color, new immigrants, and first-generation college students,” is now open to applications from any student, regardless of how they identify along the lines of race or gender.
The changes are another major victory for the self-styled civil-rights-appreciator Mark Perry, a University of Michigan-Flint economics professor and alum of UM Twin-Cities. He has agitated for what he considers equal protections for men since at least 2016, when he successfully lobbied his employer to close all women-specific study lounges.
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Perry described his efforts as a “lifelong mission that I’ve taken on now as a civil rights advocate for true gender equality through Title IX.”
Some have criticized his campaigns, saying women face serious discrimination and harassment in higher education, and that Perry’s efforts divert colleges from focusing on those issues.
“It’s illegal to [give preferential treatment to women], and I think the only way it would be justified is if women are underrepresented, which they aren’t … and they haven’t been for the last 35 years,” Perry said in response to those criticisms.
The changes to the scholarships came after Perry complained to his alma mater. Recently, Perry also filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against the University of Michigan at Anne Arbor after his request to have 50 scholarships reviewed was met with some resistance. And on Saturday, according to Inside Higher Ed, he asked the University of Virginia to look at a handful of woman-only programs on their campus.
Perry’s success is one part of a larger movement, in which men’s rights activists use the language of Title IX to gut woman-only programs within the university, claiming that such scholarships have become obsolete as feminism’s gains have apparently been fully realized. And as the Trump Administration’s Department of Education has proven to be more open to pursuing charges of anti-male bias, these reactionaries are using Title IX complaints along with the threat of legal action more frequently to spook federally funded institutions.
Last year, members of the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights met with men’s rights activists as it prepared to alter how Title IX investigations—which typically govern assault and harassment cases on campus—proceed. This spring, an MRA-affiliated University of Southern California student convinced the DOE to open investigations into his own school, as well as Yale, over charges of anti-male bias. As he told Splinter at the time, he filed his complaint so that “women, as the majority in colleges, will be able to compete with men, the minority, on equal footing.”
In September, the National Coalition of Men brought a complaint against 20 women-only programs at the University of Pennsylvania using a similar logic. And this fall, as reported by the Daily Beast, a coalition affiliated with the National Coalition of Men launched a volunteer legal group that would specifically take on such complaints. At the time, the organization’s president, Michael Angelucci, told the Beast he hoped his endeavor would become a “civil rights nonprofit law firm” protecting men.
The growing legal heft of a movement that exists to yank civil rights away from women and people of color, while appropriating their language and tactics to do so, aside: Women still receive about two of ten degrees granted in STEM fields, and black women make 60 cents on every white dude’s dollar.