SIU Might Compromise on Minority Fellowships

Dave Newbart and Carol Marin, Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 25, 2006

Under fire from the federal government for allegedly discriminating against whites, men and others, officials at Southern Illinois University appear to be ready to open up the school’s minority fellowships to all students.

The SIU administration plans to present a proposed consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to the faculty senate, graduate students and other groups today.

The decree—the result of more than two months of negotiations—was brought to the university last week by government lawyers. The feds had threatened to sue SIU last November, saying the university had engaged “in a pattern or practice of intentional discrimination” in its operation of three minority fellowships. Those fellowships were generally open just to members of underrepresented minority groups, although white women could apply for at least one of the programs.

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Applications for two of those fellowships “have been extensively revised and are now open to individuals whose personal or family background, life, cultural, and/or ethnic experiences could contribute to a more reflective responsive environment,” the Web site reads.

One of those programs, Proactive Recruitment of Multicultural Professionals for Tomorrow, provided tuition waivers and monthly stipends to 78 students since 2000. Its previous goal was to “increase the number of minorities receiving advanced degrees in disciplines in which they are underrepresented.”

But the Web site now doesn’t mention race and says the program’s goal is “to increase the number of individuals receiving advanced degrees . . . from families which have traditionally not had access to the opportunities of higher education.”

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