After Title IX complaint, Northwood's Distinguished Women Awards, Women in Enterprise Scholarship now open to men

As a result of civil rights complaint by Mackinac Center Board of Scholars member

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Mark Perry

Mark Perry

Northwood University's long-standing Distinguished Women Awards and Women in Enterprise Scholarship are no longer reserved for women.

Mark Perry, a member of the Mackinac Center Board of Scholars, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, alleging gender discrimination by Northwood in both the awards and the scholarship.

"All forms of discrimination benefit one certain group, but then discriminate and disadvantage another group. That's the whole point," Perry said. "Sure, there's been maybe hundred or so women that have benefited from the scholarship. But then, the people who were disadvantaged would have been the male students who weren't eligible. 

"With Title IX, there's no 'we-had-good-intentions' exceptions."

On July 5, 2022, Perry, a Minnesota resident and University of Michigan Flint economics and finance professor emeritus, and member of the Mackinac Center Board of Scholars for the past 25 years, filed the complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in Cleveland, Ohio.

"The University’s discriminatory Distinguished Women Awards as the program name indicates is an annual female-only awards program that restricts eligibility to women and illegally excludes non-women on the basis of sex and gender identity," Perry wrote.

Later in the same letter, Perry wrote, " addition to illegal sex discrimination for the female-only Distinguished Women Award, the University is also operating a discriminatory female-only scholarship program – the Distinguished Women Endowed Scholarship –  that illegally excludes and discriminates against non-female students."

Northwood calls the above-referenced scholarship the Women in Enterprise Scholarship.

Northwood responded to the Office for Civil Rights regarding the complaint and defended the legality of the Distinguished Women Awards and the Women in Enterprise Scholarship through the law firm Warner Norcross & Judd. The Office of Civil Rights responded with an explanation as to why it did not hold Northwood's defense to be sound.

Northwood then voluntarily submitted a resolution agreement to the Office for Civil Rights that was signed by a Northwood representative and dated Jan. 23, 2023.

The agreement stated that by Jan. 30, 2023, Northwood would extend eligibility for the Distinguished Women Award and the Women in Enterprise Scholarship to all eligible persons, regardless of gender, and by Feb. 13, 2023, Northwood would provide the Office for Civil Rights with documentation to prove it had done so.

When contacted by the Daily News for comment about the complaint issued by Perry and the resolution agreement, Northwood gave the following statement: “A resolution agreement has been signed with the OCR (Office for Civil Rights).”

Northwood also indicated that it has not changed the names of the awards or the scholarship.

As for Perry, he said he has filed a total of about 750 complaints to the Office for Civil Rights regarding awards, scholarships and similar presentations that he alleged violated either Title IX or Title VI.

Title IX, which went into effect in 1972, prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government

Title VI, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government.

As an example, Perry said he filed a complaint against Wayne State University in Detroit, which resulted in that school changing its "Women of Distinction Award" to "Warriors of Distinction Award."

When asked why he had not challenged Northwood prior to last year even though it has given the Distinguished Women's Awards since 1970, Perry said he made a concerted effort last year to search online for universities that give female-only awards or scholarships.

"I was doing a national search (last year) for universities that had those kinds of awards," he said. "Northwood came up on the web searches along with maybe a dozen other universities that had similar programs."

Perry also noted that because Northwood accepts federal funding, it is subject to Title IX and other federal laws.

"For example, Hillsdale College doesn't accept federal funds, so they could have a 'Women of Distinction Award' if they chose to," Perry said. "Northwood wants federal funding – they have to agree to enforce Title IX and Title VI."