A Colorado-based legal group filed a civil rights complaint against the University of California Berkeley (Berkeley) over holding a segregated graduation ceremony in May.
The Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Education Monday, alleging the university violated the Civil Rights Act.
In May, Berkeley continued its decades-long tradition of holding a separate “Black Graduation” ceremony for African Americans. In a statement to a local Fox affiliate, the university defended the ceremony as part of the institution’s commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion and belonging among all members of our community.”
“As such, Berkeley’s Black Graduation serves as a celebration of our Black students’ achievements, their resilience and the rich cultural heritage they bring to our community,” the school said.
“It is clearly exclusionary,” Will Trachman, the general counsel for MSLF who previously served in the Trump Education Department, told The Federalist. “Both the title of the event and all the materials and speakers at the event are talking exclusively to black students.”
The conservative college-centered news website Campus Reform found segregated graduations are becoming normalized. In 2019, a report from the National Association of Scholars (NAS) found 125 colleges “segregate graduation ceremonies” in the name of racial justice.
The Trump administration issued a webinar guidance reminding educators segregation in school settings has been ruled unconstitutional.
“Since the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, schools have been barred from segregating students according to race in classes, seminars, lectures, trainings, athletics, clubs, orientations, award ceremonies, graduations, or other meetings,” the guidance read. “This includes, of course, segregation that occurs in a virtual or online format as well.”
President Joe Biden rescinded the directive as one of his first moves in office with executive order 13895, “On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”
Trachman told The Federalist he was optimistic the complaint filed against Berkeley “is strong enough that even the Biden administration, which is generally hostile to civil rights and racial equality, is not going to have a choice but to pay attention to it.”