Tuesday, August 20, 2019
A Different Kind of Title 9 Controversy
Women-only STEM college programs under attack for male discrimination
Teresa Watanabe, 8-20-19, LA Times
Female-only science programs, launched by many universities to redress gender imbalance in such fields as computer science and engineering, are coming under growing legal attack as sex discrimination against men.
The U.S. Department of Education has opened more than two dozen investigations into universities across the nation — UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC as well as Yale, Princeton and Rice — that offer female-only scholarships, awards, professional development workshops and even science and engineering camps for middle and high school girls. Sex discrimination in educational programs is banned under Title IX, a federal law that applies to all schools, both public and private, that receive federal funding.
A new study released Tuesday found that 84% of about 220 universities offer single-gender scholarships, many of them in STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. That practice is permitted under Title IX only if the “overall effect” of scholarships is equitable. The study, by a Maryland-based nonprofit advocating gender equity on college campuses, showed the majority of campus awards lopsidedly benefited women.
In California, for instance, 11 colleges and universities reviewed offered 117 scholarships for women and four for men, according to the survey by Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. The group was originally founded to lobby for due process rights for those accused of campus sexual misconduct, who are overwhelmingly male — and launched the current project challenging single-gender programs in January.
“The pendulum has swung too far in the other direction,” said Everett Bartlett, the organization’s president who plans to file federal complaints against about 185 campuses if they don’t sufficiently respond to questions about the scholarship practices. “We’re not a society based on quotas, we’re a society based on fairness,” Bartlett said.
Emily Martin of the National Women’s Law Center argued that such female-focused programs are allowed under Title IX as permissible affirmative action to overcome conditions that resulted in “limited participation” of one gender in a particular educational program. She blasted the growing national wave of complaints alleging that men are being treated unfairly under Title IX — most prominently in sexual misconduct cases and now in STEM programs.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed sweeping changes to Title IX rules that would bolster the rights of the accused in sexual misconduct cases and is expected to issue final rules this fall. The department could not immediately respond to questions about the single-sex investigations.
“There’s a pretty well-organized and well-financed movement that is pushing out the false narrative that men are the victims of feminism,” said Martin, the center’s vice president for education and workplace justice. “The Trump administration has emboldened those trying to use this moment and this Department of Education as a weapon against women’s advancement.”
One public college female professor disagreed. She filed a Title IX complaint against UCLA challenging two workshops for women held by the campus Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics.
The January “Women in Mathematics and Public Policy” workshop focused on cybersecurity and climate change and specified on a flier that “only women will be invited to participate.” The “Collaborative Workshop for Women in Mathematical Biology” was held in June to focus on biological and medical questions. Its flier specifically welcomed female but not male graduate students, recent PhDs and other researchers. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights notified the professor in May and August that it was launching an investigation into both workshops, which were supported with federal funds.
The professor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared retaliation, said she worked with UC professors to file the complaint to push back against what she described as an erosion of meritocracy and growing favoritism of women in the sciences. As a mentor to college students of all genders, she said, she sees more men becoming discouraged about their chances of success in the field.
In university hiring, a 2015 study by Cornell University found that hypothetical female applicants for tenure-track assistant professorships were favored, 2 to 1, over male counterparts.
“I obviously want women to be able to have opportunities to further their education and have employment in STEM, but I feel everything is being pushed for women,” she said. “For me, Title IX is about being completely fair.”
UCLA did not exclude men from participating in the two workshops despite the focus on women, campus spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said. Moreover, he added, the institute has held 59 workshops over the last three years and the “vast majority” of participants were men...
Full story at https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-08-20/women-only-science-programs-discrimination-complaints