Whites-Only Scholarship At Columbia Under Fire

A “whites-only scholarship” may sound like a vestige of the pre-Civil Rights movement era, but in 2013 such a thing not only exists — it’s offered at a prominent and well-respected New York City university.

Columbia University’s whites-only scholarship is a tradition that’s nearly 100 years old, and many say the time has come to retire the racially provocative award.

It may seem easy to retire Columbia University’s Lydia C. Roberts Graduate Fellowship, and the whites-only scholarship does have some other major conditions (most notably that recipients be white, from Iowa, not studying law, and planning to return to their native home state.) But that would take a court order and isn’t as simple as it sounds.

The $800,000 whites-only scholarship fund has been in limbo since 1997, and the New York Postexplains a court motion has been made more than 90 years after the death of the woman whose name the scholarship bears in an effort to reverse the likely illegal clause:

“The rule is so discriminatory that it likely violates the US Constitution, according to Manhattan Supreme Court papers filed Monday by the fund’s trustees in an effort to get the restrictions lifted so the money can be awarded freely … Roberts was heir to her late husband’s medical-patent company. She left Columbia the bulk of her $509,000 estate when she died in 1920.”

2013 is not the first year the whites-only scholarship was at issue for Columbia — back in 1949, the NAACP attempted to halt the racist grant.

Then-provost Grayson L. Kirk refused to consider revoking the scholarship at the time, saying:

“We do not feel we are justified in depriving some of our students of the benefits of restricted grants simply because they are not available to everyone.”

Do you think the time has come for a whites-only scholarship to be a thing of the past?