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The Penn Women's Center

Credit: Luke Chen

On June 22, the National Coalition for Men filed a Title IX complaint against 22 Penn programs for allegedly discriminating against males. The complaint is one of several the male advocacy group has filed against various universities across the country.

But according to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights' active investigations page, no new investigations against the University have been opened and there is no evidence to suggest the complaint will result in any consequences for Penn. 

Similar complaints have been registered by the NCFM against other universities, including Yale University, which NCFM member and University of Southern California doctoral student Kursat Christoff Pekgoz filed in February 2018, Northeastern University, which NCFM President Harry Crouch filed in August 2018, and Georgetown University, which Crouch filed in October 2018. 

Out of these schools, the only one with an official ongoing OCR investigation in the past year is Yale, whose seven named programs have been under investigation since April.

Separately, Penn has one active Title IX investigation, which opened in February 2018 — months before the NCFM filed its complaint. 

The Office of Civil Rights declined to comment on the Title IX complaint filed against Penn.

Harry Crouch

In the complaint filed to the OCR, the NCFM alleges Penn's women's programs and institutions engage in "ongoing and systematic gender discrimination."

The complaint specifically names a multitude of Penn's female-oriented programs, ranging from institutes focusing on female health like the Center for Research on Reproduction and Women’s Health, resource centers like the Penn Women's Center, and professional organization Wharton Women in Business.

Harry Crouch, who has served as the president of the NCFM since 2006, said in an interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian that many of the over 700 women’s studies programs in the U.S. are used to "find some shame, blame, and guilt material and bring it forward and use that for political expediency."

"What's happening today is that men are getting taken advantage of in horrific ways," Crouch said.

Vice President for University Communications Stephen MacCarthy, declined to comment. An email to Sam Starks, Penn's Title IX coordinator, was directed to Ron Ozio, the University's director for Media Relations. 

"I’m afraid no one is available to speak with you about this," Ozio wrote in an email.

Though many of Penn's women's programs do not technically bar men from joining, the NCFM claims that many of these organizations violate Title IX through preference for females, which results in an overall discriminatory effect toward men. To certify these allegations, the NCFM lists the fact that some Penn programs have female-oriented names, solely female leadership, and no equivalent male-oriented groups on campus.

Two of the programs that are listed in the complaint are the Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Department and the Alice Paul Center for Research.

Kathleen Brown

Professor Kathleen M. Brown, who is the director of both the Department and the Center for Research, emphasized that neither department excludes on the basis of gender.

"I don't know any gender and sexuality studies program, and certainly not ours, that discriminates against men," Brown said. "The analyses of power in a lot of academic gender and sexual programs is a lot more complicated than men versus women."

Another female-oriented space that was targeted in the complaint was the Penn Women’s Center. 

The center's website says it strives "to include voices of gender, sexual, and racial minorities," yet the NCFM complaint states that clause is "hollow and illusory." According to the NCFM, all administrators running the center are women and its mission is inherently hostile towards male students.

"I think one important thing to look at is the use of the word feminism, for example," said Michael Pearson, a College junior who previously worked at the center as a receptionist. "In its meaning, it's equality between genders. But it uses language which empowers females because they are historically discriminated against, and so people perceive it to be women over men. But that's not true."

Pearson said that before he received a work-study job at the center in fall 2017, he felt hesitant to apply because of his gender. 

But after coming to the center for weekly meetings of Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault — an all-male sexual assault prevention group also criticized by the NCFM — he developed a relationship with building employees. Eventually, he asked if he was allowed to work at the center, and he said he was immediately accepted.