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by Southern Illinois University Restores Original Web Descriptions of Minority Fellowships

Southern Illinois University Restores Original Web Descriptions of Minority Fellowships  

CARBONDALE, Ill.

      Southern Illinois University has restored on its Web site the original descriptions of graduate fellowships the government considers discriminatory after officials said the listings had been mistakenly revised.

      The site again shows the fellowships as targeting minorities or “underrepresented groups.” Last week, the site was changed to list the programs as seeking to help “underserved” populations.

      The revisions were made as SIU administrators weigh a Justice Department proposal that would head off a lawsuit threatened by the government demanding that SIU discontinue three fellowship programs that it says amounts to “intentional discrimination against Whites, non-preferred minorities and males.”

      David Gross, a spokesman for the SIU system, said last week the revisions were done without the consent of the university’s president, the Carbondale school’s chancellor or the system’s legal counsel and did not reflect the Justice Department’s proposed offer. Gross said the revisions were made on “an assumption” by administrators in the system’s diversity office.

      “It was not accurate,” he said.

      The university has refused to publicly discuss the Justice Department’s proposal, saying only that administrators and key constituency groups were being tapped for feedback before the university responds.

      By late last week, the university’s Web site again listed the programs on a page titled “Underrepresented Fellowships.”

      The heading had earlier been changed to “Underserved Fellowships” and the page said applications for two of the fellowships — the Graduate Dean’s and the Proactive Recruitment of Multicultural Professionals for Tomorrow, or PROMPT — “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 in the program, the institution, and the larger academic community.”

      That language had been removed from the site as of Wednesday night of last week, along with a notation that the application deadline was extended to Feb. 17 “to allow interested students to apply under the new guidelines.”

      The descriptions for PROMPT, which provided tuition waivers and monthly stipends to 78 students since 2000, and the Graduate Dean’s Fellowship, used by 27 students since 2000, also have been restored to their original form.

      PROMPT again states its goal as being to “increase the number of minorities receiving advanced degrees in disciplines in which they are underrepresented.” And the Graduate Dean’s Fellowship is again listed as “for women and traditionally underrepresented students who have overcome social, cultural or economic conditions.”

      The description for the third program targeted by the Justice Department — the National Science Foundation’s Bridge to the Doctorate program — never had been changed. That program, which has helped 24 students since its start in 2004, offers a stipend and help with educational expenses “for underrepresented minority students” to study in fields including math and engineering.

Associated Press



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