It only took them close to a century, but let’s give credit where credit is due: Columbia University doesn’t want to have a whites-only fellowship anymore. Last week the Ivy League school filed an affidavit in Manhattan Supreme Court, the New York Daily News reported, to support a change of terms in an extremely specific endowment left by a Lydia C. Chamberlain of Des Moines, Iowa. The affidavit was filed in support of a similar move made by JP Morgan Chase, which is the designated fund administrator now.
Chamberlain, who left her $500,000 estate to the university in 1920, required that the trust only be used to benefit white students who hailed from Iowa. In order to qualify for the graduate and traveling support, students had to also commit to moving back to their home state for at least two years, and were barred from studying law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary surgery or theology, the NYDN reported.
“Circumstances have so changed from the time when the Trust was established” that it’s “impossible” for Columbia to comply with the terms of the trust, the university’s filing says, according to the NYDN. “Columbia University is now prohibited by law and University policy from discriminating on the basis of race.”
Columbia once defended the program, though. In 1949 the NAACP called on Columbia to give up the discriminatory scholarship. The college declined to do anything then. The fund is worth $800,000 now but has not been awarded since 1997.