A community college in Illinois is trying to defend itself after it decided to offer special classes available only to black people.
“College: Changes, Challenges, Choice” is a one-credit introductory course at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. The course is intended to help new students “assess your purpose for college, assess your study strategies, set college and career goals, examine your values and decision-making skills, and develop an appreciation for diversity.”
But while the class may want students to appreciate diversity, the school doesn’t practice what it preaches. Two sections of the class are specifically set aside exclusively for black students, who make up about 10% of Moraine Valley’s 34,000 students. The special classes were first reported by The Chicago Tribune after it received comments by the parents of several students.
Moraine Valley says it’s simply trying to improve the odds of success for black students, who are typically less likely to graduate from the school.
The school has defended its action by pointing out that it has been creating classes targeted to certain demographic groups for some time. Previous classes have been open exclusively to veterans, older students, and Hispanics. Whatever its justifications, though, it’s not clear that Moraine’s policy is even legal. The federal Title VI law prohibits racial discrimination in all programs that receive federal funds, and it’s hard to imagine a genuine case of racial segregation not violating the law.
Margarent Lehner, the school’s vice president for institutional advancement, told Inside Higher Ed that the classes should be fine because separate but equal versions of the class are available for members of other races:
Because a few people object to it should not be a deciding factor in limiting these opportunities for at-risk students. We certainly are not hampering other students also being successful. We have the same courses available to them as well.
Moraine Valley’s predicament is similar to a recent one at Michigan State University, where a longstanding women-only study lounge was shut down shortly after a college professor discovered it and argued that it was a violation of Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination.
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