George Floyd Memorial Scholarship's race-based eligibility criteria violate Civil Rights Act, federal complaint alleges

North Central University is accused of unlawful discrimination for offering scholarship exclusively to 'Black or African American' students.

George Floyd Memorial Scholarship's race-based eligibility criteria violate Civil Rights Act, federal complaint alleges
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
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A federal complaint filed by Cornell law professor William Jacobson claims that a George Floyd memorial scholarship offered by North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, violates the Civil Rights Act by discriminating based on race.

The scholarship, established in June 2020, is a "four-year, full-tuition scholarship awarded to one student each year based on two community recommendations and a written essay," according to the university's website. However, eligibility is limited to students who are "Black or African American, that is, a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa."

Jacobson, who runs the conservative website Legal Insurrection and founded the Equal Protection Project, filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights in Chicago, alleging that the scholarship's race-based criteria violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits schools from discriminating based on race.

"The George Floyd Scholarship eligibility requirements are openly racially discriminatory," Jacobson told the College Fix. "Regardless of the purpose of the racial discrimination, it is wrong and unlawful."

In addition to the federal Civil Rights Act, the complaint argues that the scholarship also violates Minnesota's Human Rights Act, which makes it a criminal offense for educational institutions to limit access to any educational program on the basis of race.

Jacobson believes that the Supreme Court's recent decision on affirmative action should make it clear that race-based discrimination is illegal. "After the Supreme Court's decision in [Students For Fair Admissions], it is clear that discriminating on the basis of race to achieve diversity is not lawful," he told The College Fix. "As Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, '[e]liminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.'"

In his concurring opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch stated that it doesn't "matter if the recipient discriminates against an individual member of a protected class with the idea that doing so might favor the interests of that class as a whole or otherwise promote equality at the group level."

The Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling stemmed from allegations that Harvard University discriminated against Asian and white students by enrolling students of other races over them, even when the Asian and white students had better test scores.

Jacobson is calling on North Central University to develop a remedial plan to compensate students who were excluded from the George Floyd Scholarship due to its discriminatory eligibility criteria.

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