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Anti-male discrimination complaint gets UMN to change scholarship rules

The University of Minnesota has changed the eligibility criteria for two women-only scholarships and is reviewing other awards in response to a complaint of anti-male discrimination.

Mark Perry, an economics and finance professor at the University of Michigan-Flint, has made it his “lifelong mission” to stamp out anti-male discrimination in education.

In the past three years, he has pushed Michigan State University to allow men into the women’s lounge at its student union and worked to change who’s eligible for women-only awards and programs at numerous colleges.

A University of Minnesota graduate, Perry complained to his alma mater in June about three awards he found online for “women-identified students.”

The U informed him Wednesday that they’ve removed the gender-specific criteria from two scholarships. A third scholarship is under review, and the U will stop administering it if it’s not opened up to other genders, Title IX Coordinator Tina Marisam wrote.

Marisam told Perry that the Women’s Center made the scholarship changes at her recommendation.

In response to an interview request, the U released a statement Friday attributed to Marisam:

“The University is committed to offering access and opportunity to individuals of all gender identities. The University regularly reviews the selection criteria for scholarships to ensure, among other things, that they are consistent with evolving understandings of gender identity and laws protecting against discrimination based on gender identity,” it read.

Perry since has asked U officials to look into a fourth women-only scholarship, as well as two awards for women faculty and staff.

Perry said federal Title IX law, which protects women from discrimination in education, also protects men. Major universities have been ignoring that fact for years because no one’s called them on it, he said.

“I think of it as advancing civil rights in a way that might be unconventional,” he said.

Perry said that if anything, male students could use a boost from single-gender programs. More U.S. women than men have earned bachelor’s degrees each year since 1982, and in 2016, four women earned a four-year degree for every three men.

“Now, you could make a much stronger case that men have fallen behind (and) you should have men’s centers and programs for men,” Perry said.

The awards with revised criteria are the Sharon L. Doherty Student Leadership Award and the Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo Scholarship.

The Doherty award historically has gone to a “woman-identified student who has demonstrated outstanding volunteer service concerning women’s issues.” It’s now open to any U student who has done that work.

The Barcelo scholarship used to help “women-identified students with financial need … with a special focus on women of color, new immigrants and first-generation college students.” It’s now open to any U student “with financial need.”

Doherty and Barcelo could not be reached for comment.

Eligibility criteria for the Carol E. Macpherson Memorial Scholarship is being reviewed. The U has removed language from its website that said the scholarship was for “women-identified students” who are 28 or older and returning to school.

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