Columbia University seeks to alter whites-only fellowship

People are seen walking on the campus of Columbia University in New York City.
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NEW YORK Columbia University is seeking to change the terms of a fellowship that can only be awarded to white students from Iowa.

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

Roberts left Columbia most of her $509,000 estate when she died in 1920 and created the highly restrictive fellowship. In addition to the "whites only" rule, Roberts fellows must be from Iowa and must return to the state for two years after graduating.

According to a description of the fellowship on Columbia's engineering school website, Roberts fellows also "may not concentrate their studies in law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, or theology."

University officials filed court papers last week seeking to change the race provisions of the bequest.

The Daily News reports that Columbia hasn't awarded the fellowship since 1997.

A Columbia spokesman didn't return an email seeking comment Wednesday.