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Med school rewrites ‘diversity’ scholarship after federal complaint


Scholarship still gives ‘preference’ to ‘underrepresented minorities’

A medical school rewrote a scholarship requirement following a federal civil rights complaint.

Southern Illinois University’s “Tracey Mears Representation Matters” scholarship gives “preference…to underrepresented minorities.”

The award is “currently being reviewed,” Rikeesha Phelon, associate provost of strategy, communications, engagement, told The College Fix via email on Feb. 21.

The scholarship’s prior version made clear heterosexual white and Asian men need not apply. It still retains much of the language included in the federal complaint filed with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Applicants must “Come from [a] background traditionally underrepresented in medicine: Black or African American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native Americans (American Indian, Native Pacific Islander, Alaskan Native) or Students who identify as LGBTQI+,” according to a prior version, as documented in the complaint.

However, the language still promotes racial and sexual diversity. “The Southern Illinois University Institute for Plastic Surgery is committed to promoting a diverse group of students, residents, and faculty,” the scholarship page states.

“The goal of this award is to give students from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine an opportunity to experience firsthand what it would be like to be a plastic surgery resident at SIU School of Medicine,’ the university states.

It is named for a black Springfield High School valedictorian who “was never officially given the title until decades later.”

“In the spirit of ‘representation matters’ and the value of diversity and inclusion within the SIU School of Medicine, this award has been given her name to allow equitable opportunities for students interested in plastic surgery,” the university states.

But the scholarship violated both “Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” and Title IX of the “Education Amendments of 1972,” according to the Equal Protection Project, which filed the complaint at the end of January.

Title VI prohibits racial discrimination in higher education and Title IX bans sex discrimination.

Legal Insurrection Foundation, which runs the Equal Opportunity Project, told The Fix it wants SIU “to open the scholarship on a non-discriminatory basis, and to implement a remedial program taking into account that there are students who suffered university-sanctioned discrimination.”

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“SIU Medical not only is violating federal and state anti-discrimination laws, it also is failing to live up to its own set of rules and violating its own nondiscrimination policy,” William Jacobson, who also teaches law at Cornell University, told The Fix in early February.

“SIU has vigorous non-discrimination rules, why were they ignored here,” he told The Fix via email.

“After the Supreme Court’s decision in Students For Fair Admission, it is clear that discriminating on the basis of race to achieve diversity is not lawful, and violates, among other things, students’ 14th Amendment right to equal protection of the laws,” he said. “As Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, ‘[e]liminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.’”

He said a “majority of medical schools have injected Critical Race Theory, and its variants such as DEI, deep into their educational institutions.”

“This worrisome trend damages students and patients, and is harmful to our societal goal of equal protection of the laws for all people without regard to race or ethnicity,” he said.

SIU med school employed dean’s daughter as ‘poetry professor’

The downstate Illinois university not only runs a diversity scholarship, it also at one time employed a poetry professor, who happens to be the daughter of the med school’s dean.

Self-described “ecofeminist” and “beach witch” Emily Carr worked as the first poetry professor at the medical school, as reported by The Fix in December 2023. She left the New College of Florida after Governor Ron DeSantis began appointing conservatives to the board to remake the school to focus on classical education.

Dean Jerry Kruse, her dad, was not involved in the selection process, the university said.

A national watchdog group based in Illinois questioned the arrangement.

“There are 5,800 institutions of higher learning across America. What are the odds that Carr landed at the only institution that employs her father as dean and provost?,” Open the Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski told The Fix.

“Illinois is the super bowl of small-‘c’ corruption. This is a good example of what’s legal yet costs students and taxpayers dearly.”

Editor’s note: The name of the group has been corrected to ‘Equal Protection Project,’ not ‘Equal Opportunity Project.’

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IMAGE: Southern Illinois University Medicine

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About the Author
College Fix contributor William Hurley is a student at Hope College where he studies political science and theology. He is active in many clubs including Hope Republicans, Hope Catholics, and Students Cherishing Life. He has written for the Hope College student newspaper, The Anchor.