Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
UMinn law school stops barring male and white students from diversity fellowship after civil rights complaint

A University of Minnesota Law School full-ride diversity fellowship sponsored by the Jones Day law firm will now consider white students and male students as applicants, a change prompted by a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

In September 2023, education watchdog Adam Kissel filed the complaint, alleging discrimination based on sex and race because the fellowship gave application preference to women and students of color.

Launched in December 2022, the prestigious Jones Day Diversity Fellowship includes a full-tuition scholarship for all three years at the law school as well as an opportunity to work as a summer associate at Jones Day, a well known and respected firm with offices across the globe.

“We aggressively pursue hiring, retaining, and developing lawyers from historically underrepresented groups and backgrounds,” the firm states on its website.

In a March 25 memo to Kissel, a copy of which was provided to The College Fix, the Office for Civil Rights stated the complaint was resolved and closed.

The reason cited was because the university recently notified the office that the 2024 fellowship eligibility criteria “does not include a preference based on race or sex, and students will be selected … ‘based on their commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion’ and ‘whose life experiences bring unique, extraordinary, or other fresh perspective to campus, including first generation college graduate and students from socioeconomically challenged backgrounds.'”

Kissel, in an emailed statement to The Fix, called the development “a win for civil rights.”

However, he added, the resolution is likely “just whitewashing, since all the administrators still understand that the purpose of the program is to help minority students, otherwise it would not exist.”

A black female was chosen as the inaugural fellowship recipient in 2023.

Yvette McGee Brown, a global partner in charge of diversity, inclusion and advancement at Jones Day, told the Minnesota Daily student newspaper in January 2023 that the law firm wanted the fellowship to start at UMinn because “Minneapolis has become ‘the epicenter’ for diversity efforts since the police killing of George Floyd in 2020.”

Kissel also pointed out that the development is of note because it shows the department’s Office for Civil Rights “now entertains even unintentional disparate impact claims as possible civil rights violations.”

“In other words,” Kissel said, “the intended outcome is that minority students, but few to no non-minority students, get the advantages of the program. That difference in outcome by race is intended. Even if that outcome were unintended, the program would still risk a finding that it is out of compliance with Title VI.”

“Whether a difference in outcome by race is intended or unintended, OCR investigates discrimination claims based on unequal outcomes.”

MORE: George Floyd scholarship violates civil rights law: federal complaint

IMAGE: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

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
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.