Jacques: Men face discrimination on campus

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

A Michigan university professor is on a mission to fight campus discrimination.

Against men.

You heard that right. And he’s using Title IX, the 1972 law that bans sex discrimination at schools that accept federal funds. The law began as a way to ensure more equality for girls and women, and that continues to be the focus of discussions around Title IX. Yet the law applies to men just as much as it does to women.

Exterior of the Michigan Union at the University of Michigan.

Mark Perry, professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan-Flint and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, believes it’s overdue to call out universities for an array of awards, programs, scholarships and other perks that benefit only women. That includes segregated study spaces and female-only summer camps.

Given that women have been the majority on U.S. college campuses for about 40 years, Perry makes a strong case that men are getting shortchanged. At UM, women dominate in 17 out of 21 fields of study, with business and engineering being the only areas where women are underrepresented. Yet Perry has identified more than 50 programs at UM that discriminate based on gender.

“We’re still stuck back in the 1960s or 1970s with outdated thinking that women still need special treatment and special preferences,” he says.  

To combat the campus bias, Perry has filed complaints with Title IX offices at UM-Flint and the Ann Arbor campus as well as other universities in Michigan. But he hasn’t stopped there. He says he has lodged 35 complaints against universities throughout the U.S.

And when administrators don’t respond to his complaints, Perry alerts the regional Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. That happened last year with complaints he’d filed with UM. And the OCR just alerted him this month that it would investigate his reports of discrimination at UM — and that his objections as a faculty member were disregarded.

A UM representative says the university is still “studying the complaint.”

The OCR also agreed to open Perry’s complaint against Wayne State for hosting an annual summer workshop on its campus for the “Black Girls CODE” organization.

Perry says that many universities have no idea they may be in violation of Title IX by offering female-only programs until it’s brought to their attention. And Title IX relies on complaints — officers don’t go out in search of violations.

“Gender discrimination has been embedded, accepted, embraced and institutionalized in higher education for decades,” Perry says.

Yet he’s hopeful that 2019 will be a “watershed” moment for ending gender discrimination in higher education.

Similar complaints of bias against men at Tulane University in New Orleans — filed by a female lawyer in Virginia — were recently investigated by the OCR and Tulane agreed to a resolution agreement to solve its Title IX violations.

Perry expects a similar outcome at UM.

Samantha Harris, vice president of procedural advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, says the uptick in lawsuits brought by male students who say they’ve been denied due process in campus sexual assault investigations is another example of men starting to challenge unfair treatment under Title IX. That's why Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is working to craft new rules for these tribunals. 

For Perry, this is about challenging universities that claim to be about equity and inclusion, but too often fail in that mission.

“It’s time for UM and other universities to practice true ‘civil rights for all,’" he says.