Mankato State Quietly Drops Girls-Only Science Camp After Discrimination Complaint

There’s a lot of talk about equal rights and equity issues these days in the media. But the settlement of an unusual gender bias case involving the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office and Mankato State University has largely been ignored by the Fourth Estate thus far, outside of the Mankato Free Press.

A discrimination complaint alleging anti-male bias in a summertime youth program at Minnesota State University has been resolved after MSU decided to drop its emphasis on girls in marketing camps focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education in 2018 by Charlie Hurd, of Mankato, who maintained the “Girls Explore STEAM” camp violated the 1972 Title IX law prohibiting discrimination in education on the basis of sex.

“I just want boys to have the same chance as girls,” Hurd told The Free Press in 2019.

MSU began recruiting female middle school students for the annual summer science camp in 2015. A university news release outlined an impressive range of opportunities available to girls only.

The Girls Explore STEAM summer program provides opportunities for students to immerse themselves in and explore a variety of different STEM fields ranging from astronomy, physics, microbiology and engineering, to regenerative medicine and computer information science through hands-on projects.

The camp will be led by Minnesota State Mankato faculty and students as well as industry professionals. Students will also be exposed to positive and outgoing female role models, including counselors, activity leaders and lunch guests from industry.

The camp was part of the push to encourage more girls to explore careers in math and science,  fields liberals have long criticized as male-dominated professions. But Hurd pursued his claim because he sees boys falling further behind in the classroom in many ways.

Hurd, a former Mankato City Council member, indicated he was satisfied with the result and emphasized the need for educational encouragement for male students.

“Boys and men now lag behind girls and women in many areas of education, including low attendance and graduation rates from both high school and college,” Hurd said in a written statement.

MSU confirmed the university recently reached an agreement with the federal agency to discontinue excluding boys from inclusion in the program.

In a document dated Jan. 20, the education department’s Office For Civil Rights informed Hurd that the complaint has been dismissed because the issue has been resolved.

“… The Girls Explore STEAM program is no longer offered by the university and has been replaced by a program that contains no sex-specific language and is open to all students within the specified grade levels,” wrote supervisory attorney Ann Cook-Graver.

MSU apparently saw the writing on the wall. The university started allowing equal access to boys last summer when the program went online due to COVID-19 restrictions.