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Western Illinois faces a federal complaint regarding scholarships

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(The Center Square) – Western Illinois University is the subject of a federal civil rights complaint about scholarships.

Cornell University law professor William A. Jacobson is the founder of the Equal Protection Project, or EqualProtect.org, which claims that 16 scholarships at Western Illinois are discriminatory.

“So these are scholarships which are open only to certain races, certain ethnicities and, in some cases, certain genders and certain gender identities,” Jacobson said.

The complaint alleges that Western Illinois is violating the Civil Rights Act, Title IX, and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“I think that Western Illinois needs to reopen the process for these scholarships and reopen them on a non-discriminatory basis,” Jacobson said.

Western Illinois University Assistant Vice President Alisha Looney responded with a statement: “The University has received no communications from the Office of Civil Rights. Our only knowledge of this complaint is from media inquiries. If we do receive a complaint, we will take this matter seriously, as we do with any complaint against the University, and we will work to ensure we are in compliance with all applicable laws.”

The federal complaint against Western Illinois is dated Feb. 26. Jacobson said EqualProtect.org does not file cases they think are close calls.

“We file cases, like with Western Illinois, where it’s right in their rules and regulations that certain races are preferred. Certain races are excluded. We don’t see how that can be defended,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said similar cases have mainly involved discrimination against white or Asian students, or both.

“It’s time to uphold Western Illinois’ own rules and regulations, which prohibit this very sort of discriminatory conduct,” Jacobson said.

EqualProtect.org has filed more than 20 civil rights complaints against different institutions with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

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