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Clemson opens female-only programs to everyone to end federal investigation

Professor says change wouldn’t have happened without his complaint

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has closed a Title IX investigation into Clemson University after the school opened a series of female-only programs up to male students.

Mark Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan-Flint, filed a sex discrimination complaint against the public university in late January in connection with a series of programs only available to female students.

Two of them centered on helping pre-collegiate aged girls get involved in STEM fields, while the third, an extension of the previous two, worked with “top performing” female students and brought them to Clemson to encourage them to pursue STEM majors.

The first program, “Project WISE,” was a summer camp for middle school girls at the Clemson campus. “STEM Connections,” the other pre-college program, was for girls in K-12, and again focused on STEM, while the final program, PEER Snapshot and WISE Choice, was for high schoolers preparing for college. (Clemson told OCR that WISE stood for “Women in Science and Engineering” but would not serve as an acronym going forward.)

It’s the latest in a series of gender discrimination complaints that Perry, also a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has filed against colleges and universities across the country with the Office for Civil Rights.

“I guess would call this another small victory in my Title IX efforts,” Perry told The College Fix in an email. “I’m pretty sure none of those changes would have taken place without an OCR complaint.”

MORE: 92% of sex-specific scholarships reserved for women, study finds

Perry has faced some backlash for his efforts challenging women-only programs, and he hasn’t taken it sitting down, threatening a lawsuit against his own school’s student government for defamation.

Perry showed The Fix a letter from OCR that informed him that it had closed the investigation. OCR said it had verified that Clemson had changed its programs to put them in compliance with Title IX regulations on gender discrimination.

In the letter, OCR said that Clemson had actually been working toward compliance with the three programs prior to being notified of the OCR investigation. The school told OCR that it sought to be compliant as soon as possible.

Perry speculated that the reason Clemson was already working toward compliance was due to his complaint with the school’s own Title IX office prior to filing the complaint with OCR.

To become compliant, the WISE summer camp program became available to all students, “regardless of their gender or gender identity.” Language on the university website for STEM Connections that was “suggestive of a limitation based on sex” was revised to clarify that it was open to all students, regardless of sex.

Finally, the WISE Choice program was merged with a similar program for male students into a new program called “Sneak Preview,” which is “open to ‘top performing students interested in the STEM fields from around the state’ regardless of sex.”

“I congratulate Clemson for addressing and resolving its past practices of illegal sex discrimination,” Perry told The Fix, “”but am somewhat disappointed that it takes a federal OCR investigation to force universities to address the frequent and ongoing violations of Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination that are common at many US universities.”

MORE: Perry threatens to sue student government for defaming him

IMAGE: Shuttershock

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