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Columbia U. Trying To Modify Whites-Only Fellowship

School Seeking To Toss Out Racial Stipulation, Ease Iowa Native Rule
Columbia University - New York, NY (file / credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

Columbia University – New York, NY (file / credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Columbia University is seeking to change the terms of a 93-year-old trust earmarked for white students from Iowa.

The Lydia C. Roberts Graduate Fellowship stipulates that money be given only to “a person of the Caucasian race” from Iowa.

Roberts left Columbia most of her $509,000 estate when she died in 1920 and created the highly restrictive fellowship. It also stipulates that students must not study law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary surgery or theology. They also must move back to Iowa for a minimum of two years after graduating.

Lucy Drotning, the university’s associate provost, filed an affidavit in Manhattan state Supreme Court last week in support of a legal action initiated by the fund’s administrator, JPMorgan Chase Bank, seeking to change the terms of the trust. The university has not awarded the fellowship since 1997.

“Columbia long ago ceased awarding the fellowships in question and does not follow gift conditions that violate anti-discrimination laws,” the university said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

The court papers ask for the whites-only provision to be thrown out and suggest a modification to the Iowa-only rule.

The original trust is designated for graduate students who were born in Iowa and attended a college or university in Iowa. Columbia suggests in its affidavit that the stipulation could be modified so that fellowships could be awarded either to students who are residents of Iowa or to students who graduated from college there.

The trust, which earned $26,000 in income in 2011, is currently valued at $840,000, according to the affidavit.

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