Should the Whites-Only Scholarship at a Top University Be Changed?

columbiaColumbia University is petitioning to change one of their graduate school fellowships that is currently whites-only. The Lydia C. Roberts graduate fellowship stipulates that the recipient must be Caucasian and must be from Iowa. The scholarship was established in 1920, but hasn't been awarded since 1997. The Ivy League school is currently asking the courts to allow a change of the scholarship's whites-only requirement, presumably so they can continue awarding the scholarship, this time with a clear conscience.

There are, however, many exclusionary, race-based, gender-based, religion-based, and hometown-based scholarships out there. Many are intended to focus on and help students who are generally underrepresented in high educational systems, and grant funding and aid to individuals in order to diversify the student body.

In this case, Columbia wants to remove a restriction they think is inappropriate. A quick look at Columbia's extensive lists of fellowships shows that a lot of once discriminative scholarships have been amended to include a broader audience.

For example, the Kaiser Family Foundation was founded to help black, Hispanic, and Native American students develop leadership skills in health policy. However, since its founding, it's been changed to include all students, regardless of race or ethnicity, who are interested in the subject matter.

It's startling to learn that a whites-only scholarship still exists -- it's about time that this Lydia C. Roberts fellowship is changed. High time.

The fellowship hasn't been handed out in 16 years, but hopefully the court will allow the university to make the desired changes, which would presumably inspire them to start distributing it once again.

Wonder if they'll keep the Iowan requirement.

Do you think the scholarship should be changed?

 

Photo via janoma.cl/Flickr

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