NAS Urges HHS to Disavow Voter Discrimination

The National Association of Scholars renewed its call for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to sever its ties with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), an accreditor of social work education programs. Having previously questioned the constitutionality of the Department's relationship with CSWE on First Amendment grounds, the NAS now finds in CSWE voting procedures an even more blatant violation of Fourteenth Amendment prohibitions against racial discrimination.

In a letter sent on Monday to Deputy Secretary Tevi D. Troy, NAS president Stephen H. Balch noted that the CSWE allocates seats on its governing board and special committees on the basis of race and ethnicity (as well as gender, disability, and sexual orientation), prohibiting persons of other races and ethnicities from being nominated for them. In allowing CSWE standards to determine the professional fitness of its social workers, the HHS thus co-opts a rule-making process fatally corrupted by racial discrimination of an unusually gross and systematic kind.

Moreover, the CSWE receives grants for minority fellowship programs from two HHS agencies, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Such fellowships, blatantly discriminatory in restricting support to members of particular racial and ethnic groups, have been successfully challenged at a number of universities, and clearly violate the strictures against racial and ethnic exclusivity defined by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Gratz and Grutter cases. By subsidizing them with tax dollars, HHS adds constitutional insult to injury.

As Dr. Balch observed, "it is bad enough that CSWE makes accreditation conditional on social work programs abridging student free speech and conscience rights via the imposition of political orthodoxy. But coupling this with a racially restrictive voting system and color-coded fellowships reveals an extraordinary disregard of fundamental American ideals. On those grounds alone, HHS would be well advised to keep CSWE at arm's length. As a department of the federal government, however, operating under the warrant of the U.S. Constitution, HHS should also feel legally obliged to do so. I very much hope HHS will advise CSWE that unless it alters these policies, the gatekeeper role it currently enjoys, together with the Department's fellowship support, will be terminated."

Letter to HHS Secretary Tevi D. Troy

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