Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
Michigan State’s ‘Women’s Leadership Accelerator’ likely illegal: watchdog


Group says program ‘absolutely not’ compliant with federal law

Michigan State University is facing scrutiny for its new female leadership program as a due process advocacy group says it illegally discriminates against male students.

Michigan State’s Broad College of Business launched the program recently and it is marketed to female students who want to advance their leadership skills, potentially in violation of Title IX rules on sex discrimination.

The Dashney Women’s Leadership Accelerator will offer students mentoring and experiential learning, according to the program’s website.

The College Fix contacted the university to ask if the program was Title IX compliant, what opportunities were being offered to female students but not males, and if male students were allowed to participate in the program.

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education institutions.

“The University will ensure that the program complies with Title IX,” campus spokesperson Mark Bullion told The Fix via email.

Bullion said both men and women can participate in the leadership accelerator.

But a group that advocates for civil rights protections disagrees.

The president of Stop Abusive and Violent Environments told The Fix MSU is “absolutely not” compliant with Title IX regulations.

“In reading the language of Title IX, there is nothing in there that gives preferential treatment to members of either sex,” Edward Bartlett told The Fix in a phone interview.

“It’s a very simple law,” he said. “It says you can’t discriminate on the basis of sex and that’s what this program does.”

Bartlett also said that these types of programs that are exclusive to female students are hypocritical as many subject fields have a lack of male students.

MORE: Philly university ordered to pay $15 million to doctor for anti-male bias

“In many areas, men have been lagging such as enrolling in schools of education and enrolling in schools of nursing,” Bartlett said.

“So it’s really the height of hypocrisy to say we want to do this to help women but we don’t care about the historical discrimination and the historical underrepresentation of men in many disciplinary areas,” he said.

While the MSU women’s leadership accelerator does not specify that being female is a requirement to participate, and the university said it would accept male students to the program, Bartlett said programs like this that are marketed with gendered language have been found to violate Title IX rules.

A January 2024 news release from MSU stated the program will “propel women graduates into the C-suite.” The slogan for the accelerator is “Expanding opportunities for women in business.”

“Critical to the success of the Broad College of Business in developing global transformational leaders is the advancement of women leaders,” an explanation paragraph on the website states.

“The Office of Civil Rights has weighed in on this concept of not overt exclusion, but rather by selective use of gender-specific terminology, ruling that this may have the effect of discouraging individuals from participating,” Bartlett said.

“We’re seeing a double standard,” Bartlett said. “We wouldn’t allow a program that is designed primarily for male students to engage in these various forms of promotional deception.”

Changes were also made following a complaint by former University of Michigan Professor Mark Perry.

The website now says at the bottom “it is open to students of all genders.”

However, an archived version said the program was aiming to “provide select undergraduate students with experiential learning opportunities and coaching, preparing these DWLA Scholars to begin their professional lives with the ability and confidence to make an immediate impact.”

He told The Fix via email today that he filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and shared copies with the university, including its counsel. Following his Jan 30. complaint, the “all genders” language was added.

Editor’s note: The article has been updated with comments from Perry. He is a consultant to The Fix on an unrelated project.

MORE: Clemson female-only programs open to everyone after federal investigation

IMAGES: Michigan State University; College Fix edits

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Please join the conversation about our stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, MeWe, Rumble, Gab, Minds and Gettr.

About the Author
College Fix contributor Jack Applewhite is a student at the University of Georgia majoring in risk management and insurance with a certificate in legal studies. Jack is a member of his university’s Turning Point USA and College Republicans chapter and serves in student government. He is also a contributor at Lone Conservative.