Red state university accused of giving more financial aid to Black students

6 days ago 11

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FIRST ON FOX: Students at the University of Oklahoma filed a class action lawsuit Wednesday alleging the school violated their equal protection clause rights by awarding students financial aid on the basis of race.

Plaintiffs Brayden Johnson, Logan Rhines and Kayla Savage – all undergraduate students – claimed in a lawsuit that the university "places a high value on racial diversity," particularly Black students, through various "race conscious" programs on campus that begin before enrollment and continue through graduation.

"Racial discrimination in all of its forms is illegal and immoral, and we intend to vindicate that principle in this lawsuit," attorney for the plaintiffs David Thompson told Fox News Digital in a statement.

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University of Oklahoma campus.

University of Oklahoma students sue school over alleged racial bias in financial aid, claiming violation of equal protection clause. (Brian Bahr/Contributor)

The lawsuit names the university's president, Joseph Harroz, alongside chief enrollment officer Jeff Blahnik, director of financial aid services Courtney Henderson and student engagement director Dorion Billups as defendants.

The lawsuit comes after the Supreme Court held in a 2023 ruling that the use of race in admissions violated equal-protection rights, ending prior leniency toward such programs.

Black students receive more financial grants compared to other racial groups, based on the university's published enrollment data it reported to the Department of Education from 2009 to 2022, "even when controlling to the extent possible for factors such as family income," the lawsuit alleged.

"This statistical analysis provides evidence of the extent of discrimination stemming from affirmative action policies in university grants that benefit some favored group (in this case, black students) and harm other disfavored groups (in this case, nonblack students)," the lawsuit alleged.

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College graduates in cap and gown

College students stand in their caps and gowns at graduation. (Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The students alleged that because of the university's "race-based financial aid decision making," they received fewer grants "than they would have if the University of Oklahoma did not discriminate on the basis of race when awarding financial aid." All three students identified as "white" and "non-Hispanic" when applying for grants.

Savage, who is a senior at the university, alleged in the lawsuit that a university official told her "that financial aid was generally not available to students like her," but would have been if she were Black. 

The lawsuit lays out several incidences in which events and opportunities are exclusionary on the basis of race. The "racially exclusionary nature is not subtle," the lawsuit states, detailing the university's three-day "Welcome Black Weekend" orientation for incoming students. 

"In an effort to obscure the extent to which it has engaged in race-based decision making, the University of Oklahoma has recently deleted many webpages with information about its diversity and race-based programs. It is therefore difficult to determine the full extent of the University’s race-based programs," the lawsuit alleges. 

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Students allege discrimination on the basis of race at the University of Oklahoma. (Getty Images | iStock/ Dzmitry Dzemidovich)

Fox News' Digital reached out to the University of Oklahoma for comment and a spokesperson said "the practice of the university is not to comment on pending litigation."

Jamie Joseph is a writer who covers politics. She leads Fox News Digital coverage of the Senate. 

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