Stanley Goldfarb and Mark J. Perry:
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is no conservative bastion. Staffed mostly by liberal career attorneys, and situated within one of the government’s most aggressively woke departments, it is charged with upholding federal antidiscrimination laws in education, including Title VI and Title IX. OCR is required by law to investigate complaints of discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal financial assistance. The office is rejecting much of what higher education is attempting to do at the behest of woke ideologues.
Consider so-called racial affinity groups, a common woke initiative. These segregated entities, which many campuses have attempted to introduce, are open only to students of a specific race. An April article in the New England Journal of Medicine praised the separation of medical students by race while calling for the establishment of white-only affinity groups whose members would be “held accountable.” The authors also cast affinity groups for black medical students as protecting them from “otherwise-common denial, gaslighting . . . and White fragility.” This toxic language harks back to segregationists’ claims that separating whites and blacks benefitted both groups.
Such blatant racial discrimination is precisely what Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws—and what OCR was created to stop. In October 2022, we filed a complaint challenging the racial affinity groups at the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine, the institution at the heart of the New England Journal of Medicine article. OCR opened an investigation, prompting the university to cancel its racial affinity groups before the investigation could conclude. OCR pressured the university to agree that if affinity groups return, they will be open to medical students of all races. Something similar happened when we submitted a Title VI complaint against Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In both cases, OCR effectively ruled that racial affinity groups are illegal.