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Friday, May 7th, 2021
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MADISON — The identity politics crowd is picking and choosing winners in Wisconsin’s Minority Undergraduate Retention Program. Certain minority students need not apply for the program’s scholarships.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) has filed a lawsuit against the Higher Educational Aids Board alleging the state agency violated the Wisconsin Constitution by discriminating based on race and national origin. The Milwaukee civil rights law firm is representing five Wisconsin taxpayers in the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

The taxpayer-funded scholarships are available to certain minority undergraduates enrolled in private, nonprofit higher educational institutions or technical colleges in Wisconsin.

According to the complaint, eligible minority undergraduates include: Black American, American Indian, Hispanic, and those specifically from Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia who immigrated after 1975. That narrow list leaves out large swaths of minority students — Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, North African, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, resident aliens from Africa.

The exclusive list also discriminates against deserving white students, the complaint notes.

“The state of Wisconsin is engaged in race discrimination, pure and simple,” WILL Deputy Counsel Dan Lennington said in a statement. “Many students are denied scholarships based on their race or where their family comes from. This program violates the state Constitution and basic notions of equality and fairness.”

While the state of Wisconsin may offer aid based on need, income-level, family background, or even location, it cannot do so based on race. WILL’s clients are seeking a declaration from the court that this program is unconstitutional and an injunction preventing its race-based qualifications.

“America is a land of opportunity,” said Kiki Rabiebna, a WILL client. “Government programs must be available to everybody, not just certain racial groups.”

“When government discriminates by race, it pits different groups against each other,” said Rick Freihoefer, Rabiebna’s husband. “That isn’t progress. That just fans the flames of our divisions.”

Rabiebna and Freihoefer live in Madison. Rabiebna is a native of Thailand and Freihoefer is white, according to the complaint. They have a teenage child and plan to send him to college one day.

“But because of their race and ancestry, no one in the Rabiebna-Freihoefer family is eligible for the Minority Grant Program. Ms. Rabiebna and Mr. Freihoefer are both taxpayers of the State of Wisconsin and object to their taxes being used to discriminate against individuals based on race, national origin, or alienage,” the lawsuit states.

A representative from the Higher Educational Aids Board did not return a request for comment. Wisconsin Spotlight was told office employees are working remotely.

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