Adam Kissel, senior fellow at the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy and visiting scholar at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has filed a complaint with the Atlanta Office of the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), alleging that the University of Central Florida (UCF) is in ongoing violation of Title IX. Readers should note that the Atlanta Office is one of twelve OCR regional offices in the country and oversees complaints not only in Georgia but also in Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida.
Kissel filed this complaint to bring UCF, one of the nation’s largest universities, into compliance with civil rights law. (His complaint is unrelated to UCF’s persecution of Professor Charles Negy, which NAS has commented on elsewhere.)
Title IX, the provision of the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funding, states:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. [emphasis added]
Kissel’s complaint identifies seven UCF programs and scholarship that explicitly or implicitly exclude boys and/or men from participation based solely on their sex. Kissel contends that these programs are therefore in direct violation of Title IX and that OCR and UCF must take action to ensure that the programs conform to federal nondiscrimination requirements.
One such program is UCF’s Science Leadership and Mentoring (SLAM), which “empowers girls [not boys] to be assertive, brave, confident, independent, inquisitive and proud leaders in STEM” and limits applications to “[a]ll girls [not boys] entering 7th grade.” Kissel notes that UCF does not offer an equivalent program for 7th grade boys. He argues that this program expressly denies access to boys and is therefore in violation of Title IX.
Kissel also highlights scholarships that UCF offers or advertises exclusively to women, which violate Title IX according to an OCR clarification from January 2021: “Under Title IX, a recipient is prohibited from advertising or promoting ... any scholarship, fellowship, or other form of financial assistance … that discriminates on the basis of sex.” Nevertheless, UCF offers or advertises at least two such scholarships, including the “American Association of University Women/Winter Park-Orlando Branch” scholarship and the “Diaz-McAgy/Total Nutrition Technology Women in Science Scholarship.” Kissel believes that advertising the former and directly offering the latter contradict OCR’s interpretation of Title IX and must be remedied.
Kissel cites several further examples—NAS has posted the full complaint here. NAS believes that Kissel has presented very strong evidence that UCF has committed multiple violations of Title IX law. We endorse his request that the Office for Civil Rights investigate this matter immediately. We also call on UCF to conduct its own immediate investigation and, without federal prompting, to reform its practices to ensure that it does not violate federal antidiscrimination law. UCF should not need external pressure to follow the law.
NAS generally supports equality of opportunity in higher education (and in our republic as a whole) among individual American citizens, and opposes group identity preferences of any sort, whether justified by equity, diversity, inclusion, affirmative action, or any other euphemistic rationale. These preferences rot the effectiveness of higher education—but, more fundamentally, they are unjust. We encourage work such as Kissel’s to ensure that colleges and universities live up to the letter of the law, and we also support all needed changes to the law to ensure that colleges and universities retain no legal permission to discriminate. When the law is unjust, the law should be changed.
Adam Kissel has informed NAS that he sent a courtesy copy of his OCR complaint to UCF’s Title IX office and subsequently spoke with the university’s Title IX coordinator. He assures us that UCF is taking the complaint seriously. We are delighted that OCR and UCF have begun so well, and we hope they will finish as well as they have begun.
David Acevedo is Communications and Research Associate at the National Association of Scholars.