New ACLU Head Has a Civil Rights Problem Back Home

Adam Kissel

The American Civil Liberties Union’s new president, Deborah Archer, is a faculty member at New York University’s law school, where she runs its civil rights clinic. But NYU Law has its own civil rights problem, which is why I filed a Title IX complaint against NYU.

NYU’s law school violates Title IX, the federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex, in at least three programs. Even though women are better represented than men in law schools and colleges generally, NYU is one of the many institutions that discriminate against men.

NYU’s Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network provides leadership training to women but not to men. There appears to be no Men’s Leadership Network, or even a coed leadership training program that provides equal opportunities to similarly situated men at NYU Law.

NYU Law also supports two student organizations that clearly discriminate against men. Such support violates Title IX, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

OCR reaffirmed last month that, when a recognized student organization includes a word such as “women” in its name, the institution has a duty to effectively communicate that the organization does not discriminate after all—“that the activity, notwithstanding the name, is open to all students and participants regardless of sex.”

Law Women does not do that. Quite the opposite: Its diversity pledge mentions inclusion on the basis of race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability, and mental ability. But it does not communicate nondiscrimination on the basis of sex. A reasonable man at NYU Law would know that he is not offered an equal opportunity to participate, if he is allowed to participate at all.

Law Women’s logo even includes an image of blind Lady Justice. Classically educated readers will remember that she is the one with scales that are equal on both sides. Unfortunately, while justice requires nondiscrimination on the basis of sex, Law Women does not follow that principle.

Likewise, NYU Law recognizes the Women of Color Collective. The Collective admits it “was created to provide a supportive space for women, gender non-conforming and non-binary students of color.”

Men—at least traditionally masculine men—are not included. Legal eagles might also notice the violation of Title VI here—the law that bans discrimination on the basis of, for example, color.

These are serious violations of civil rights, not to mention NYU’s own nondiscrimination policy.

NYU Law has a few choices. One is to disaffiliate with these groups and to stop substantially supporting them—including all web hosting. Another is to work with the groups to get them to stop discriminating, so that NYU can clearly and effectively communicate that its principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion are actually working at the law school.

Before worrying about Americans’ civil liberties, Professor Archer and the civil rights clinic may want to help their law school get its own house in order.


Adam Kissel is a former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and a life member of NAS.

Image: Jean-Christophe BENOIST, Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license, cropped.

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