MADISON — The University of Wisconsin-Madison is being warned to end its mental health segregation policies.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) on Wednesday issued a letter warning the University of Wisconsin System and UW Madison administrations that hiring mental health counselors to serve only non-white students is unconstitutional and morally wrong.
As Empower Wisconsin reported last week, the university recently announced the hiring of three new mental health counselors who “will exclusively serve students of color.”
Campus spokeswoman Meredith McGlone told The College Fix via email that research shows “clients are more satisfied with counseling when it is provided by a counselor who is culturally responsive.”
A campus statement noted that in “addition to increasing access to services, the new providers will enhance programming across campus aimed to support (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) BIPOC-identified students.”
Of the remaining new hires, four “will serve as generalists which are counselors who see clients with a wide range of concerns rather than a specific population.”
WILL notes the Wisconsin and U.S. constitutions emphatically prohibit race discrimination by government entities like UW-Madison. Numerous federal and state laws similarly prohibit race discrimination. A state agency that receives federal funding, such as UW, may not treat students differently based on race under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Race discrimination has no place in American society. Students struggling with mental health issues should not be segregated into racial groups—they should be treated as individuals. UW should reverse course immediately,” said Dan Lennington, deputy counsel for the Milwaukee-based civil rights law firm.
WILL’s letter demands UW-Madison adjust relevant job descriptions and assignments and reaffirm their own statements of nondiscrimination. Failure to do so may result in legal action.
Interestingly, the university on Tuesday quietly updated the information on the counselors “to clarify the role of the three new providers.” The release now notes three providers will join eight current providers who have special expertise in addressing issues “that students of color often experience.”
It’s not clear if the university has changed its exclusive policy.
“While we don’t necessarily oppose counselors claiming certain expertise in issues facing students of color, we remain concerned that such ‘expertise’ will consist of little more than stereotypes and worry about the disparate treatment that such stereotypical thinking might beget,” Lennington said. “We do read UW’s revised release to abandon the notion of making counseling resources exclusively available to students on the basis of race. Should this understanding be incorrect or should counseling services be provided in a discriminatory way, UW may be hearing from us.”