NEW YORK, NY – Columbia University is seeking to alter the 1920 charter of one of its graduate school fellowships which is still limited “to persons of the Caucasian race,” though the fellowship has not been granted in years.
The Lydia C. Roberts Graduate Fellowship is, at least on paper, available to white students “of either sex, born in the state of Iowa,” according to a Columbia University charter from 1920.
The university filed an affidavit in Manhattan Supreme Court last week to support a petition from JPMorgan Chase, the fellowship’s designated trustee, to change the whites-only provision, according to Robert Hornsby, assistant vice president for media relations at Columbia.
Other restrictions for the fellowship stipulate that a recipient may not concentrate their studies in “law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or theology.” Recipients must also agree to return to Iowa for two years after completing their studies at Columbia.
The fellowship was established in 1920 by Lydia C. Roberts, an Iowa native, with a $500,000 donation to the university upon her death. However, the school stopped awarding the fellowship in 1997 for several reasons.
It’s not clear when the university stopped adhering “to the race-related terms of the gift,” Hornsby explained.
“The university administers gifts in accordance with applicable law and (anti-discrimination) policies, and it has long been the university’s practice to disregard donor restrictions that violate either the law or our policies,” he added.
Douglas Gross, an attorney in Des Moines, Iowa, received the fellowship in 1977 after a college professor recommended it to him.
Gross says he was an Iowan interested in pursuing higher education so he accepted, but probably would have rejected the fellowship had he known the provision existed.
Some student groups at other universities have established “whites-only” scholarships, including Boston University’s College Republicans, which created the “Caucasian Achievement and Recognition” scholarship in 2006. It awarded $250 to students with at least a 3.2 GPA and who are at least “one quarter Caucasian.”
However, a representative for College Republicans at Boston University says there are no longer any scholarships funded by the organization.
“Our club does not currently offer scholarships of any kind. Our club started from scratch this past fall as the previous College Republicans’ student group was ultimately defunct,” Mara Mellstrom told CNN.
Roger Williams University’s College Republicans attempted to create a similar scholarship in 2004.
In 2003, Texas Tech University student Matt Coday created the United White Person’s College Fund, a scholarship that looked to serve “as a source of financial assistance to students whom Coday feels have been discriminated against by organizations designed to give money to minorities,” according to the Texas Tech newspaper University Daily. It’s not clear if that fund still exists.
By Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley
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