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University of Virginia tells feds its ‘Women’s Leadership Program’ doesn’t exclude men

President himself signed resolution agreement

“Women’s Leadership Program.” What does that make you think?

According to the University of Virginia, it shouldn’t make you think that men are excluded from applying for this program, which would violate Title IX (absent an equivalent program for men).

In a “resolution agreement” with the Department of Education, shared with The College Fix this week, the taxpayer-funded institution agreed to take one of three actions to either bring its leadership program in compliance with sex discrimination law or end it altogether.

It will “cease its involvement” with the program; change the name and “effectively communicate” that it’s coeducational; or leave the name and “develop and implement strategies” to let the public know it’s open to both sexes “notwithstanding the name.”

University of Michigan-Flint economist Mark Perry filed a Title IX complaint against the program last summer, citing its wording (“designed for female executives and women with management responsibilities”) and the lack of any advertised counterpart for men. It was scheduled to be offered next in late April, he said.

The department’s Office for Civil Rights notified Perry Tuesday of its resolution of the investigation and provided the university’s defense of the program, which is allegedly run by a nonprofit foundation affiliated with the Darden School of Business. (He shared the complaint, notice letter and Jan. 14 agreement with The Fix.)

The federal investigation determined that this arms-length arrangement was in name only. The university let the foundation use its names and trademarks and provided its own facilities and information technology services for the program. The program website also does not appear to exist outside the UVA website.

Its promotional materials online, which said the program is located in the Darden School, gave no suggestion that men were eligible. One page said “women are called on to lead in organizations and society,” and the program would help them “develop clarity and lay the groundwork to achieve [their] chosen purpose.”

Three months into its investigation, the feds came across another page for the program that showed UVA was “proactively making changes.” The page now said the “course is open to all participants who meet the professional development requirements for admission regardless of gender.”

The university told investigators around the same time that the program has “never rejected” a male applicant because he’s male. It refused to admit the program violated the law in its agreement with the feds.

UVA must tell the department by March 1 which of the three options it has chosen. Keeping the name but changing the communications about the program, to emphasize it’s coeducational, requires the most work.

Beyond the strategic plan, it would have to hand over information to the feds about applicants for the program this year and the following academic year, including which were rejected and why.

Perry emphasized to The Fix that President Jim Ryan signed the agreement. This “demonstrates how serious it is when a university violates federal civil rights laws (Title IX in this case) and jeopardizes its federal funding,” he wrote in an email.

This resolution, “consistent with dozens of others” regarding female-only university programs, clarifies the federal government’s position that “discriminatory single-sex, female-only programs violate Title IX,” Perry said. He claims to have filed nearly 300 complaints, more than half of which prompted federal investigations.

MORE: Public university offers 10 pronoun choices for women’s leadership program

IMAGE: Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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