Equal Protection Project v. University of Wisconsin-Madison (Undergraduate Program Open Only to “BIPOC” Students Challenged)

Case Particulars


Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights

Date Filed

January 22, 2024

Docket No.


Case Status

OCR Complaint Filed

Case Overview

EPP filed a civil rights complaint against the University of Wisconsin-Madison (“UW-Madison”), a public institution, for supporting and promoting a program that engages in invidious discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin.


According to the UW-Madison website, the “Creando Comunidad: Community Engaged Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Fellows” (“BIPOC Fellows”) is a UW-Madison program, offered through the university’s Morgridge Center for Public Service, designed “to connect[ ] BIPOC undergraduate students who are currently, or striving to, participate in community engagement.”


The mission of the program is “to center and empower the strengths of BIPOC undergraduate students partaking in critical service work,” to provide them “opportunities for community building, collaboration, support, and both personal and professional development” and to “support the deconstruction of systemic oppression through critical service.”


As the name of the program suggests, a race- and ethnicity-based criterion dictates who can participate in the BIPOC Fellows program. Eligibility is restricted to undergraduate students who are “member[s] of a historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group or community.”


EPP is the Complainant in this matter, which was evaluated by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR).


On March 25, 2024, in a letter to EPP, OCR said it would open an official investigation in response to EPP’s Complaint regarding “[w]hether the University excluded applicants based on race, color and national origin from its Creando Comunidad: Community Engaged Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Fellows fellowship program (Fellowship Program) in a manner inconsistent with the requirements of Title VI.”


That investigation is ongoing.


UW-Madison’s website currently appears to have no information regarding the Fellowship Program.

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