Fighting Campus Bigotry with Prof. Mark J. Perry
How he's pushing back against Institutional sexism and racism, and how you can help.
When it comes to fighting the power, Prof. Mark J. Perry is doing it. He’s been filing complaints for civil rights violations against universities that discriminate on the basis of race and sex – for example, establishing all-women or all-minority scholarships or programs – because doing so, even if it’s for fashionable reasons, is against the law. I asked him a to talk about what he’s doing and why, and at the end he has some advice on how you can help, and an offer of assistance. I chime in with some other things you can do.
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1. Please describe what you're doing in terms of filing complaints.
As recipients of Federal financial assistance (e.g., Federal Pell Grants and Federal student loans, research grants), US colleges and universities are legally required to enforce federal civil rights laws including Title VI and Title IX as a condition of receiving taxpayer-funded assistance. Recipient institutions are required to regularly certify in writing to the Department of Education that they are actively enforcing federal civil rights laws and prohibiting any discrimination against students, staff, or faculty on the basis of sex, race, color, or national origin. Despite the legal requirement to enforce Title VI and Title IX and the regular filing of certifications of compliance with federal civil rights laws, colleges and universities routinely offer programs that discriminate on the basis of sex or race. Examples of the widespread and systemic illegal discrimination (and favoritism) in higher education include single-sex female-only scholarships, fellowships, awards, STEM programs, summer camps, leadership programs, internships, mentoring, orientation events, book stipends, and research opportunities. Likewise, examples of the widespread and systemic race-based discrimination in higher education include programs, scholarships, fellowships, awards, affinity groups, welcome events, campus housing, required courses, graduation events, etc. that are offered exclusively for students or faculty who are Black, Hispanic, or Native American (BIPOC) while illegally excluding students who are white, Asian or Middle Eastern.
Over the last four years, I have identified more than 1,500 violations at US colleges and universities of Title VI’s prohibition of race-based discrimination and Title IX’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination. Based on that documented evidence of illegal violations of federal civil rights laws, I have filed Title VI and Title IX complaints against more than 700 colleges and universities with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Based on those complaints, the OCR has so far opened 337 federal civil rights investigations and has resolved 257 of those investigations, mostly in my favor.
2. Once a complaint is filed, what happens next?
After a Title VI or IX complaint is filed with the OCR, it is evaluated by attorneys or investigators at one of the 12 regional OCRs. The complaint is evaluated for its timeliness (discrimination within the last 180 days), OCR’s appropriate jurisdiction over the recipient, and an initial assessment of the evidence presented by the complainant. Then after a highly variable period of evaluation that could last anywhere from 30 days to more than three years in one case, the OCR is supposed to either (a) dismiss the complaint for lack of evidence, not being timely, OCR’s lack of jurisdiction, or because a duplicate complaint was already filed, or (b) open the complaint for an official federal civil rights investigation. When a complaint is opened for investigation, the OCR notifies the complainant at the same time it notifies the highest-level administrator at the school, usually the president or chancellor.
Again, during a highly variable period of investigation that could range from 30 days to more than four years in one case, the OCR works with the offending institution to correct its violation of Title VI or Title IX or both. A school can usually correct its illegal sex-based or race-based discrimination in one of the following two ways: (a) discontinue the discriminatory program or (b) remove the illegal, discriminatory sex-based or raced-based eligibility restrictions and open the program to all students, staff, or faculty regardless of their sex, race, color, or national origin. In a few cases, schools have introduced a new male-only program that is equivalent to an existing single-sex, female-only program so that all students are legally and equitably accommodated regardless of their sex.
Most schools under investigation seem motivated to act quickly to correct their violations and resolve the investigation according to OCR’s Rapid Resolution Process, so resolutions within six months of an investigation are typical. In cases where schools aren’t so motivated investigations take longer and can end with the OCR dictating the terms of the resolution at the conclusion of the investigation, which usually involves a written Resolution Agreement (signed by the president of the school) with details of the remedial actions required by OCR and frequently with mandatory Reporting Requirements over a period of several years or more.
3. Many people probably assume that these complaints will simply be ignored by the bureaucracy, but that's not what happens. Why have you been so successful in making them stick?
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has a federally mandated legal obligation to actively and uniformly enforce civil rights laws including Title VI and Title IX. When presented with incontrovertible evidence of sex or race discrimination, the OCR cannot simply ignore valid, legitimate complaints without at some point being disciplined by Congress.
Title VI (only 40 words) and Title IX (only 36 words) are both very simple and clear civil rights laws, and I’ve tried to only file complaints for violations of those laws that are clear and well-documented with indisputable evidence. OCR is staffed by experienced attorneys and investigators and I try to make their work easy by only filing complaints that I am confident will result in successful outcomes with appropriate corrective remedies.
In 2022 alone, the OCR resolved 170 violations of Title VI and IX at 97 colleges and universities based on my complaints, which I think demonstrates the success I’ve had by filing timely complaints with convincing and incontrovertible evidence.
I think I’ve also been inadvertently supported in my civil rights efforts by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona who issued a statement in 2021 titled “Title IX the 'Strongest Tool' in Protecting Educational Opportunities Free from Sex Discrimination,” where he said the following (bold added):
Today marks 49 years since the passage of Title IX, the strongest tool we have to protect every student’s right to equal access to educational opportunities free from sex discrimination.
As Secretary of Education, I am committed to ensuring Title IX works for all students and provides equal access to opportunities that will enrich students’ educational experiences and their futures.
Further, according to President Biden’s March 8, 2021, Executive Order (bold added) “It is the policy of my Administration that all students should be guaranteed an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex.”
The success I have had is consistent with Secretary Cardona and President Biden’s strong statements that Title IX is supposed to be enforced to guarantee the civil rights of all students (and faculty) regardless of their sex. Unfortunately, there has been a long history of a selective and hypocritical double standard for the enforcement of Title IX and Title VI, and it’s been my mission to expose that defect in the US’s alleged commitment to protect the civil rights of Americans, regardless of sex or race. The fact that nearly 100 US colleges and universities agreed last year to stop discriminating on the basis of sex or race is a sign of progress in advancing the civil rights of all Americans, although much additional work is needed.
4. Leaving aside the bureaucracy's response to your complaints, what has the response been like elsewhere, from your academic peers and from the press?
Most of the conservative press that follows higher education (The College Fix, Minding the Campus, Campus Reform, Alpha News, Daily Caller, Instapundit, Legal Insurrection, Washington Free Beacon, etc.) have covered my civil rights efforts and success on a routine basis. On the other hand, the mainstream press that covers higher education like the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Washington Post, and the New York Times have routinely ignored my civil rights efforts and documented successes. Perhaps the lack of coverage from the mainstream media reflects a strategy to intentionally ignore what has been the most successful effort in the history of civil rights of an individual single-handedly forcing hundreds of institutions of higher education to stop discriminating on the basis of sex and race. And the motivation to ignore those successful efforts is possibly because the victims of discrimination in most of my complaints are members of unfavored groups – cisgender heterosexual men, whites, and Asians. In other words, groups that don’t deserve to have their civil rights protected according to the mainstream, leftist, Marxist, DIE, BLM, and CRT narratives.
If I were fighting for the civil rights of today’s most favored groups – women, BIPOCs, and LGBTQIA+s – and had 200 successful civil rights complaints resolved on behalf of those groups, I am confident that I’d be promoted in the mainstream media as a modern-day Martin Luther King. But given the unfavored groups I’m fighting for, my civil rights efforts and successes are convenient to ignore by the mainstream outlets like the Chronicle of Education and Inside Higher Ed.
Similarly, many of my academic peers and university administrators have conveniently ignored my civil rights efforts, perhaps intentionally to avoid bringing any additional attention to my success challenging the hypocritical double standard for the enforcement of Titles VI and IX in higher education. On the other hand, I have heard from hundreds of faculty and staff members, parents, students, and alumni who are overwhelmingly supportive of my efforts. More than several dozen of the hundreds of complaints I have filed have been filed under my name on behalf of faculty, staff members, parents, alumni and students who have alerted me to violations but have requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation and adverse consequences. Those requests for anonymity reflect today’s disturbing campus climate of fear that prevents decent, principled people from standing up against the Woke Mob in higher education that doesn’t welcome or tolerate dissent challenging the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DIE) orthodoxy. A major motivation of my civil rights efforts has been to stand up for the silent groups of faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni who oppose higher education’s widespread and systemic illegal discrimination but are understandably unwilling to expose themselves to the wrath of the intolerant Campus Wokerati.
5. How easy is it to file one of these complaints?
Filing a Title VI or Title IX complaint is very easy, here is an example of a Title VI complaint I filed vs. the University of North Carolina by email for a BIPOC-only research fellowship opportunity with the District of Columbia OCR. The OCR has 12 regional offices with jurisdictions over various US states, and complaints can be filed by email with the regional office that had jurisdiction over the state where the offending institution is located. The complaint should provide as much documented evidence as possible of a possible federal civil rights violation that would typically include a school’s websites and press releases that provide evidence of the school’s discrimination in its own words. Importantly, “legal standing” is not required for a Title VI/IX complaint. That is, unlike a lawsuit, you do not have to identify a specific individual by name who has personally suffered from sex-based or race-based discrimination. You are filing an “administrative complaint” that provides evidence to OCR of a prima facie (“on its face”) Title VI/IX violation, and are not required to provide any evidence of a specific person who has suffered personally from an individualized injury of discrimination.
6. Are students and faculty who file civil rights complaints based on university race or sex discrimination at risk of retaliation? What are their rights?
Students, staff, and faculty who file civil rights complaints are legally protected from retaliation, here is the standard language to a complainant in OCR’s correspondence:
Please be advised that the University must not harass, coerce, intimidate, discriminate or otherwise retaliate against an individual because that individual asserts a right or privilege under a law enforced by OCR or files a complaint, testifies, assists or participates in a proceeding under a law enforced by OCR. If this happens, the individual may file a retaliation complaint with OCR.
Perhaps students, faculty, and staff are not aware of that legal protection from retaliation because so many of them are unwilling to file complaints under their own names of known illegal discrimination at their institutions. Or maybe the concern is that even with OCR’s legal protection from retaliation the universities will still find a way to surreptitiously or subtly retaliate. However, I wish more students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni would stand up and challenge the systemic racism and sexism in higher education along with me. Even if one individual faculty member on every campus were willing to vigilantly expose his or her school’s violations of Titles VI and IX, higher education would be forced to quickly reform. Under the status quo, schools have violated federal civil rights laws with impunity for decades because they have gone unchallenged. It is time to change that and I’m hopefully leading the way.
7. What's the endgame here? What are you hoping to accomplish?
As recipients of Federal financial assistance, colleges and universities are legally obligated to enforce the civil rights of all students, faculty, and staff. Unfortunately, the highly selective enforcement of Title VI and Title IX has meant that the civil rights of only certain preferred groups (women and BIPOCs) have been protected while the civil rights of unpreferred groups (men, whites, and Asians) have been historically ignored and disregarded. My goal is to expose and end what has for decades been the highly selective double standard for the enforcement of Title VI and Title IX in higher education so that the civil rights of all students, faculty, and staff are protected as guaranteed by federal civil rights laws. Based on my civil rights efforts so far, more than 200 colleges and universities have been forced to stop discriminating on the basis of sex and/or race for hundreds of programs. It is my goal to force hundreds of more schools to stop discriminating on the basis of sex and race so that the civil rights of all individuals are protected as guaranteed by Title VI and Title IX.
Endgame/Goal: Title VI and Title IX for all, not just some.
Prof. Perry adds: “I forgot to include in my responses that I'm available on request to (a) help individuals evaluate potential violations that could be the basis of a Title VI or Title IX complaint to the Office for Civil Rights or an internal complaint to a school's general counsel and Title IX office, (b) assist individuals who are willing to file a Title VI or Title IX complaint under their name with the OCR or internally with the school, or (c) file Title VI or Title IX complaints under my name only to protect the anonymity of any ‘whistleblowers.’ If you could include that it could be helpful to any potential whistleblowers out there, and I'm sure there are many!”
I believe that this sort of approach is very productive. Anyone with a web browser and an email account can file a complaint, and the research material is usually on the university’s own website, where they cluelessly brag about their illegal programs. Often, higher education people seem generally amazed that race or sex discrimination – so long as it’s performed on behalf of fashionable groups – is nonetheless illegal. It’s important for them to be reminded that the law does not comport with modern woke ideas on race and gender. It’s also the case that the investigations themselves are a deterrent. They involve paperwork, hassle, and risk for the institutions involved and the personnel who run them. As the left likes to say, “the process is the punishment.” Leftist advocacy groups are happy to exploit that fact. Why let them have all the fun?
Nor is Perry’s approach the only way to go. Students and faculty can also complain directly to their own university’s DEI departments. Such complaints have to be addressed, and retaliation against the complainants is illegal. University of Houston Prof. Adam Ellwanger is encouraging people to do this, and notes: “Your school’s DEI Office is the best weapon you have: you are a protected class. Don’t allow the Left to wield DEI unopposed. Conservative students should begin filing complaints for speech that attacks their identity categories—especially when it comes from a professor. DEI is required to investigate actionable complaints.”
It takes very little pushback to
make a difference, because the campus orthodoxy is such that many people who engage in fashionably approved racial or sexual misconduct don’t even think they’re doing anything wrong. The prospect of consequences for this misbehavior is likely to be sobering, and the point that such behavior is illegal and improper will stick.
So if you’re so inclined, take a stand against racism, sexism, and bigotry on campus. It’s easy and it can be effective!
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