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Quinnipiac Law scholarship excludes heterosexual males, faces Title IX complaint

‘A law school should know better than to discriminate on the basis of sex,’ scholar responds

Quinnipiac University School of Law is facing a federal civil rights complaint for a scholarship only open to women and LGBTQ+ students.

The complaint, filed last week with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, comes from legal scholar Adam Kissel who shared a copy with The College Fix.

Kissel, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former deputy assistant secretary for higher education in the Trump Administration, told The Fix the Goff Law Group Endowed Law Scholarship is “a blatant violation of civil rights.” Title IX prohibits educational institutions from discrimination on the basis of sex.

“The scholarship explicitly is to ‘benefit women students,’ excluding men in violation of Title IX. A law school should know better than to discriminate on the basis of sex,” Kissel said in a recent email. “Maybe this helps us understand why QU Law is poorly ranked.”

University public relations representatives did not respond to several requests for comment this week from The Fix, asking if the university believes the scholarship complies with Title IX and if it received the complaint.

Quinnipiac, a private Connecticut university, announced the $500,000 scholarship in March. Created by alumna Brooke Goff, a personal injury law attorney, it will be awarded to two students every year, according to an article from the Quinnipiac Chronicle.

The Fix also contacted Goff twice by phone and a contact form on her law firm’s website this week seeking comment about the alleged violations, but received no response. Her firm took a message on Tuesday and said someone would get back with comment but no one has yet.

Jennifer Brown, dean of the law school, told The Fix in an emailed statement the scholarship will help students overcome the financial burden of law school.

Brown said Goff provided the gift out of a “desire to increase access to the legal profession for people who have been historically underrepresented.”

“Brooke’s hope is that this support for LGBTQ students and their allies, particularly, will help to diversify perspectives and lived experience among lawyers, and in turn this will enrich the quality of service for a diverse community of clients,” Brown said.

Additionally, the school plans to name the Ceremonial Courtroom the Brooke A. Goff Courtroom because of her donation, according to the student newspaper.

Goff told the Chronicle: “We want to heavily look at the members of the LGBTQ+ community because they are so underrepresented in law. If I can help make a dent in that, I want to do that.”

The complaint states the Goff scholarship “is limited to women” and “operates a preference for applicants on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI). The limitation to women violates Title IX. Additionally, the SOGI preference violates Title IX under OCR’s current interpretation of the law …”

The complaint also alleges the law school’s Lynne Pantalena Endowed Scholarship for female students and its Distinguished Scholar Awards scholarships, which “apparently privileg[es] certain SOGI identities,” discriminate against students as well.

Along with sex, the Office for Civil Rights also considers gender, or SOGI, “discrimination as a Title IX violation,” Kissel told The Fix.

“Even if the discriminatory scholarship is offered by a third party, OCR says it is unlawful for a school to advertise it,” Kissel said.

The Fix has reported a trend in universities offering scholarships that exclude certain demographics.

Duke University excluded heterosexual students from a scholarship in 2017. The scholarship was awarded based on “the potential for student involvement in the LGBT community.”

Other examples include Iowa State University, Spelman College in Georgia, and California State University at Long Beach.

MORE: Philly university ordered to pay $15M to doctor for anti-male bias in Title IX case

IMAGE: Quinnipiac University/YouTube

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About the Author
Georgia Lucas -- University of North Carolina Pembroke