Virginia Tech Blasted Over Sex-Segregated Classes for Saudis

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The creation of gender-segregated classes at Virginia Tech for visiting faculty from Saudi Arabia is drawing complaints from professors, who say a state-supported school shouldn't promote discrimination.

King Abdulaziz University (search) paid Virginia Tech (search) $246,000 to design and operate the faculty development program this summer.

The courses include topics such as Web site development and online instruction, but in keeping with the preferences of the Saudi university, the university created separate classes for the approximately 30 male and 30 female faculty members.

Eloise Coupey (search), an associate professor of marketing at the Virginia Tech, filed a complaint with the school Tuesday alleging the single-sex classes created a hostile environment for women.

"The presence of these segregated classes on campus indicates to me that the university doesn't place a strong enough value on women's rights," Coupey said Wednesday. "This makes me feel that the university holds me in less regard than my male counterparts."

A message left for university spokesman Larry Hincker seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.

Provost Mark McNamee has said that the gender segregation isn't compatible with Virginia Tech's practices and called the controversy "a learning moment" that will help guide the university's future contracts with foreign universities.

"We regret that our internal review process did not anticipate this situation and develop a reasonable alternative in partnership with our visitors," McNamee said in a statement Tuesday to deans and department heads.

The university, in Blacksburg, has allowed the classes to continue but has made the course segregation optional.