Columbia University officials have filed a complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court, asking for modifications in the provisions for a scholarship fund that can only go to white students.
The Lydia C. Roberts graduate and traveling fellowship was set up by the estate of Lydia C. Chamberlain of Des Moines, Iowa, as she left the money to the fund before her death. She left $500,000 (€388,000) to be included in the scholarship fund.
Scholarship regulations state that only “a person of the Caucasian race” can receive the money, and they have to be Iowa natives.
Students awarded the scholarship “may not concentrate their studies in law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or theology,” it states.
Furthermore, recipients must return to the state of Iowa and live there for a minimum time of two years.
“The trust contains certain provisions that are impracticable and/or are inconsistent with Columbia’s administrative procedure,” Columbia associate provost Lucy Drotning says in the filed affidavit, as quoted by the New York Post.
“Circumstances have so changed from the time when the Trust was established.
“Columbia University is now prohibited by law and University policy from discriminating on the basis of race,” the affidavit reads.
The scholarship rules have been in effect since 1920 and, after the Second World War, the school was backing them up.
School provost Grayson L. Kirk said in 1949 that, while not everyone was eligible to apply, it would be unfair for those than could do so to be denied the opportunity.
Some former recipients claim to not have been aware of the discriminatory “whites only” policy.
“I didn't even know there were requirements of race,” Douglass Gross, who was awarded the funds in 1976 told the New York Daily News.
“All I knew is that you had to be from Iowa. And, since I was from Iowa, it was pretty easy to do,” he says.