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Columbia seeks to have whites only fellowship changed

A student walks across the campus of Columbia University in New York, October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar
A student walks across the campus of Columbia University in New York, October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Chris Francescani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Columbia University, one of the nation's Ivy League schools, has joined an effort to have restrictions removed from a decades-old scholarship offered only to white students.

The Lydia C. Roberts Fellowship, established in 1920, requires that Columbia students who receive funding must be from Iowa, must not study law or several other fields, and must return to Iowa for two years after graduation.

It also stipulates that the fellowship "shall be awarded only to persons of the Caucasian race," a requirement now being challenged in a New York court by the scholarship's administrator, JPMorgan Chase.

"It should go without saying that a university rightly known for the great diversity of its student body is as offended as anyone by the requirements of these fellowships," Columbia University spokesman Robert Hornsby said on Wednesday.

Columbia filed an affidavit last week in state Supreme Court in Manhattan supporting JPMorgan's effort to have the whites-only provision removed from the fellowship. A court order is required to change the fellowship's guidelines.

"Columbia long ago ceased awarding the fellowships in question and does not follow gift conditions that violate anti-discrimination laws," Hornsby added.

The trust was designed to provide a stipend for Columbia University graduate students, as well as provide for the cost of a single round trip from Iowa to New York City. Roberts died in 1920 and the trust was created as directed in her will.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Andre Grenon)

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