By Alexa Schwerha
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) opened an investigation into the University of Southern California (USC) Keck School of Medicine after a professor alleged its “Diversity Visiting Clerkship Award” discriminates against candidates based on race, the Department of Education (DOE) confirmed to the Daily Caller News Foundation on Friday.
The OCR opened the investigation into the program on Dec. 29 after a complaint, filed by University of Michigan professor and watchdog group Do No Harm senior fellow Mark Perry in August, claimed that the program violated Title Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits race-based discrimination, according to a letter obtained by the DCNF. The program is open to fourth-year “black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander” students,” its website reads.
“We do not comment on open investigations,” a DOE spokesperson told the DCNF, but confirmed an investigation was ongoing.
“USC’s race-based discrimination is just another of hundreds of examples of colleges and universities failing in their legally mandated obligation to enforce civil rights laws including Title VI and Title IX as a legal condition of receiving Federal financial assistance (including Pell grants and Federally insured students loans for their students),” Perry told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s disappointing that so many universities like USC are either unacceptably unaware of their obligation to enforce Title VI’s prohibition of race-based discrimination or inexcusably unconcerned about violating the federally-guaranteed civil rights of the majority of their students.”
The clerkship’s objective is to “increase awareness of opportunities in academic medicine for student groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine,” according to its website. Accepted students receive $2,000 to help cover housing and travel during the four-week Emergency Medicine elective.
Applicants are also automatically considered for the school’s Emergency Medicine Student Clerkship, in which slots are reserved for underrepresented communities.
Perry told the DCNF that it is “implausible” to claim that other minority groups that are not included on the university’s short-list are “overrepresented in medicine and therefore illegally excluded from the program.” He said the program discriminated against “white, Middle Eastern… Asian Indian, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Malaysian, Burmese, Korean, Pakistani, Cambodian, Filipino, Sri Lankan, Malaysian, Singaporean, Laotian, Bangladeshi, Indonesian and all other Asian medical students.”
“By emphasizing diversity goals over merit with the URiM clerkship, Keck is compromising its academic responsibilities and pursuing a political and ideologically-driven diversity agenda over medicine based on merit and academic excellence,” he told the DCNF.
Applicants were required to identify their race on the clerkship application, which are reviewed by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The deadline to apply was March 25, 2022.
The University of Southern California, the Keck School of Medicine and the school’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.