Columbia University's Lydia C. Roberts Graduate Fellowship comes with a lot of stipulations. For one, it can only be awarded to a student from Iowa. That student cannot be studying law AND must return to Iowa for two years after graduation. Oh, and that student totally has to be white because, racism.
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.
But the gift came with a heap of restrictions, some of them bizarre. In addition to the "whites only" rule, Roberts fellows must be from Iowa, must not study law or several other fields, and must return to Iowa for two years after graduating.
None of the rules governing the fund — which is now worth $800,000 — can be changed without a court order.
The fund's trustees filed papers in Manhattan Supreme Court on Monday to suggest that the stipulations violate the Constitution. They hope that they'll be able to have the restrictions lifted so that the grants can be awarded more fairly. It hasn't been given out since 1997, it's unclear whether or not Columbia has followed this rule, and this isn't the first time someone's spoken up about the grant.
However, the school's provost at the time, Grayson L. Kirk, defended the racial provision when the NAACP protested it in 1949.
"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," he said. [NY Post]