In August 2022, we reported that a federal civil rights complaint was filed against the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine for its discriminatory Visiting Clerkship for Underrepresented Minority Students in Medicine (URiM) Program. The eligibility criteria for the program stated that applicants must be “Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latino, or Native American (American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Alaskan Native, mainland Puerto Rican).” This is a very specific and definite race-based requirement that illegally excluded applicants who were white, Asian, and Middle Eastern in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin.
After receiving a courtesy copy of the complaint filed with OCR last August, the UPenn School of Medicine quickly scrubbed the race-based requirement above and added this new text at the revised website:
Applicants for the funded clerkship must come from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine. Under-represented in Medicine (URM) refers to individuals from a background that is traditionally underrepresented in medicine, including but not limited to racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, identify as LGBTQ+, have disabilities, are first generation in the United States or first in their immediate family to attend college, or who otherwise would increase the diversity and inclusivity of our student and resident/fellow populations.
The revision also included this statement:
Penn Medicine is an equal opportunity employer and adheres to a policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of ancestry, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected class.
As a result of the changes made by Penn Medicine to quickly correct its Title VI violation following being notified of our complaint, the Region III U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, located in Philadelphia, dismissed the complaint.
Do No Harm senior fellow Mark Perry, who filed the original complaint, said:
At the time I filed my complaint the University was in violation of Title VI and in fact the changes the University made to its website since August 2022 confirm that (a) the University was engaged in illegal race-based discrimination in violation of Title VI as recently as August 2022 when I filed my complaint and (b) the changes made by the University is an admission and acknowledgment of guilt by the University that it had been engaged in illegal race-based discrimination in violation of Title VI as of August 2022.
We acknowledge the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine’s update of the eligibility criteria of the Visiting Clerkship for URiM Students in Medicine program after being notified of our federal civil rights complaint.
If you are aware of a discriminatory scholarship or policy at your medical or nursing school, or if you didn’t apply because you thought a discriminatory policy worked against you, please let us know.
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