Missouri State University says its no-white-males-allowed business boot camp was a one-off. Not good enough, says watchdog

A no-white-males-allowed boot camp for business startups at Missouri State University was a one-off, and future trainings will be offered irrespective of race and gender, a spokesperson says.

Not good enough, says a national watchdog.

As The Heartlander exclusively reported Wednesday, an eight-week “Early-Stage Business Boot Camp” that just concluded at MSU’s “efactory” business incubator Tuesday was for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) or women entrepreneurs only, and expressly excluded white males.

The Equal Protection Project (EPP), a national nonprofit watchdog, asked in a letter to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey Tuesday night that his office launch an investigation into violations of state and federal law and constitutional rights associated with the free boot camp, in which eligible participants also received $3,000 stipends.

“The application itself,” EPP argued in its letter, “stated that eligibility in the boot camp was restricted to ‘BIPOC or women future or current business owner[s] (recently started or in the idea phase)’ who are ‘[l]iving in southern Missouri.’

“The application also required that all applicants identify their ethnicity and gender and … that they ‘certify’ that they were ‘a BIPOC or woman.’”

After being asked for comment by The Heartlander on Wednesday, an MSU spokesperson emailed on Thursday:

“The Early-Stage Business Boot Camp Program is designed to assist new and aspiring small business owners in establishing and growing their businesses. The Spring 2023 program was funded by the U.S. Bank Foundation and, on a one-time basis, focused on minority and/or women-owned businesses.

“On an ongoing basis, the efactory will continue to offer the Early-Stage Business Boot Camp Program at no cost to the participants, and irrespective of their race and/or sex.”

Still, the attorney general’s involvement, as well as more boot camps for all races and both genders, should go on, notwithstanding the university’s statement, EPP president and founder William Jacobson wrote in an email to The Heartlander Thursday.

“It should not have taken a complaint to the attorney general by the Equal Protection Project for MSU to acknowledge its obligation to administer the business boot camp without regard to an applicant’s race or sex,” Jacobson wrote in response to MSU’s statement. “MSU needs to make that commitment for non-discrimination across its programming, and to explicitly state that it will not permit programming focusing on the racial characteristics of attendees.

“MSU’s statement also does nothing to remedy the discriminatory harm, because it has not committed to offering more boot camps. MSU should commit to offering at least two more boot camps open to everyone so that those who were excluded based on race and sex have a chance to attend.

“Also, we continue to urge the attorney general to investigate how this clearly discriminatory boot camp was permitted to happen at MSU, and what other programming at MSU operates on a racially exclusionary or racially focused basis.”

The Heartlander asked the MSU spokesperson whether any other programs at the university have indeed excluded participants by race or gender. The spokesperson referred that question to the MSU custodian of records.

A spokesperson for the attorney general told The Heartlander the office is reviewing EPP’s letter.


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