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Anti-Affirmative Action Group Founded by Cornell Law Professor Al

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A conservative anti-affirmative action watchdog group, founded by Clinical Professor at Cornell Law School William Jacobson, has sent a letter of demands to the Ithaca City School District, calling on the district to stop holding school events and programming that are “segregated” by race, regarding the upcoming Students of Color Summit 2024, which is set to take place at Ithaca High School this Friday. 

On Tuesday, May 28, the Ithaca Times received a press release from Brian Finnegan, the vice president of New York City-based PR agency ATHOS, announcing that the “watchdog group” the Equal Protection Project is alleging that the Ithaca City School District has engaged in racial discrimination by hosting a “Students of Color Summit 2024.” The press release said that the summit appears to “segregate” students based upon race. 

The Equal Protections Project, an anti-affirmative action group, which is a project of the Legal Insurrection Foundation, was founded by Cornell Law School Clinical Professor William Jacobson in 2023. The project, which is a Rhode Island-based tax-exempt 501(c)(3), has filed several federal complaints to combat discrimination in racial-preference programs, typically in higher education institutions. 

Jacobson appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight back in 2023 when he announced the project, stating that “we’re seeing very troubling patterns in society” regarding discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity. Most recently, the group has filed complaints against MIT for a “women of color” program that the group alleged was racially and sexually discriminatory against white and male students. 

Jacobson, on behalf of his organization, sent a “letter of demands” to Superintendent of ICSD Luvelle Brown and ICSD Board President Sean Eversley Bradwell on Tuesday morning. In the six-page letter, the group demands that “publicly denounce and renounce past and planned segregationist programs, and open up the upcoming SOCU Summit to all students and staff without regard to Race.”

Jacobson states in the letter that the summit violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the legal precedents set by the rulings of several Supreme Court cases, including Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, Bostock v. Clayton County and United Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls, Inc., cited by Jacobson.

It also alleges that the summit is “racially exclusionary” and “intended to exclude whites.” The letter states that the group will be filing a FOIL request for public records related to ICSD Student of Color United Summits. 

The letter provides an image of a poster promoting the Student of Color United (SOCU) Summit 2024 event, which states that the event is for “Students of Color in grades 6-12 in Ithaca City School District.” The event is scheduled to take place on Friday, May 31 at Ithaca High School from 9 a.m. through noon. 

Jacobson’s PR agency, ATHOS, provided the following quotes to the Ithaca Times. 

“We call on ICSD leadership to publicly denounce and renounce school events and programming segregated by race,” Jacobson said. “This is important because for years contradictory messages have been sent, with official policy barring discrimination while practice embraced discrimination.”

Jacobson also calls for the district to “appoint an outside independent monitor to ensure compliance with non-discrimination laws and policies, including as to race-segregated programming.”

Cornell Media Relations declined the Ithaca Times’ request to comment regarding Jacobson’s association with the university and what stance the university has on his organization’s allegations. ICSD Superintendent Luvelle Brown and Board President Sean Eversley Bradwell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, Jacobson’s PR agency said they have received no response from ICSD.

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