FAIR News: FAIR Legal Urges the NIH to Comply with Civil Rights Law
Dear Friends of FAIR,
On November 30th our legal department wrote a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) subagency, Cellular Senescence Network (“SenNet”) based on a FAIR Transparency report we received about SenNet’s Consortium Underrepresented Student Program (CUSP) summer internship. The CUSP internship propels current undergraduate aspiring researchers to lofty heights with exclusive mentorship opportunities, researching at elite institutions such as MIT, Columbia University, Yale University and many others. CUSP offers participants a stipend, housing, and travel and technology assistance as part of the program. Unfortunately, the application for the internship makes clear that only students who identify as "underrepresented" are eligible to apply:
Please note that all applicants must be considered part of an underrepresented group, as defined by NIH. These include individuals from certain ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The NIH definition of “underrepresented” is “[b]lacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.”
Being an organization that is dedicated to non-discriminatory diversity and inclusion, FAIR applauds efforts to increase diversity in all industries, including the sciences. However, the law does not allow the government or federally-funded entities to discriminate in order to achieve desired diversity metrics. The recent Students for Fair Admissions case made clear that the US Constitution and the Civil Rights Act prohibit differential treatment of individuals based on race, skin color, and national origin—regardless of any positive intentions that might motivate such differential treatment. This past summer, SCOTUS said “[e]liminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it. And the Equal Protection Clause, we have accordingly held, applies without regard to differences of race, of color, or of nationality’ - it is ‘universal in [its] application.’ The Court went on to point out that “‘[t]he guarantee of equal protection cannot mean one thing when applied to one individual and something else when applied to a person of another color.’”
In our letter we urged SenNet and the NIH to amend its application for the CUSP program to make it clear that all students are eligible to apply, and that their selection process must be devoid of any preferences based on unlawful discrimination. In recent days, we have noted that the CUSP webpage and application have been taken down. We are cautiously optimistic that SenNet and the NIH may be working on making the necessary changes at the time this newsletter is published. We are keeping a close eye on this matter, and hope to provide good news very soon.
The Team at FAIR
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