Scholarships For Minorities Labeled “Discriminatory” in Lawsuit Against Western Kentucky University

In a recent development that’s triggering debates about race, inclusivity, and equal rights in education, Western Kentucky University (WKU) finds itself in a federal civil rights complaint.

The central issue? The university’s scholarship program, which some argue is racially discriminatory.

The Complaint And The Complainant

The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Protection Project (EPP), a division of the Legal Insurrection Foundation.

They complained to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, alleging that two of WKU’s scholarships, the WKU Athletics Minority Fellowship (AMF) and the WKU Distinguished Minority Fellowship (DMF), are available exclusively to non-white students.

The question that arises is: does providing scholarships specifically for minority students equate to racial discrimination?

What’s In The Athletics Minority Fellowship?

The AMF, according to WKU, offers at least four undergraduate scholarships for the 2023-2024 academic year.

These are targeted at students interested in pursuing careers in collegiate athletics.

The recipients, who must identify as an underrepresented ethnic minority, receive a $1,000 scholarship per semester.

What Is The Distinguished Minority Fellowship?

The DMF, on the other hand, supports resident tuition costs for the completion of a primary graduate degree and includes a $15,000 stipend per academic year.

Likewise, eligible students must have a “minority status.”

EPP’s Legal Standpoint

The EPP’s complaint underscores that WKU’s promotion of these racially exclusive scholarships violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

They argue that “eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” as recently determined by the Supreme Court in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College.

The Impact Of Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court ruling mentioned by EPP has indeed stated that the guarantee of equal protection cannot have different implications based on the individual’s color

But this is not the first time the EPP has lodged such a complaint. Just last month, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was the target of a race-exclusive residency program for film students.

It prompts consideration of whether this could mark the beginning of a trend, with more universities potentially finding themselves under scrutiny for their attempts to promote diversity.

Diversity vs. Discrimination

EPP founder William A. Jacobson stated that pursuing ‘diversity’ as a goal can no longer be used as a justification for discriminatory practices.

Yet, there is an alternative perspective suggesting that such scholarships may be viewed as a means to level the playing field, acknowledging the historical disadvantages faced by certain racial and ethnic groups.

A Thin Line Between Diversity And Discrimination

One perspective suggests that these scholarships may align with affirmative action, intended to address past injustices and encourage diversity.

However, another viewpoint questions whether they might cross a line into discriminatory practices.

While we await further legal developments, these inquiries persist and contribute to ongoing debates about race, education, and equality.

Awaiting Response

WKU has yet to comment on the lawsuit. As we anticipate their response, it’s worth asking: how will this lawsuit impact the university, its students, and potentially, universities across the nation?

In the ongoing dialogue about diversity and discrimination, what we know so far is that this lawsuit has added a new dimension to the complex issues our society faces today.

This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.


Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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