Over the past year, the Center for Equal Opportunity and the American Civil Rights Institute have sent letters of complaint to approximately 100 colleges and universities that offer programs that the CEO characterized as discriminatory, CEO General Counsel Roger Clegg said Monday.
Recipients of complaints include Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Pepperdine University, Clegg said. While Yale officials said they were unsure if Yale was a target, the University offers fellowships similar to programs at the universities that received letters.
Some programs, including scholarships and summer conferences these universities offered for African American, Latino and Native American students, were open exclusively to students of an identified color or heredity, Clegg said. Some Yale fellowships are only available to minority students.
“Our aim is to persuade these schools that they should not exclude anyone from participating in any program simply because of a student’s skin color or where his ancestors came from,” Clegg said.
But Yale does not award scholarships to students based on ethnicity, senior associate director of Student Financial Services Caesar Storlazzi said.
“Yale has been very intentional about not limiting any form of financial aid to certain ethnicities,” Storlazzi said.
Recent attention to issues of discrimination at colleges and universities comes after the Supreme Court’s decision in a case involving the University of Michigan this summer. In the case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of affirmative action while also setting guidelines for the consideration of race in the college admissions process.
Yale University spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said the Michigan ruling has caused Yale to reevaluate its fellowship programs.
“In light of the Michigan decision, Yale’s reevaluating all the fellowships to make sure they’re in compliance with the ruling,” Klasky said.
Clegg said the CEO wants letter recipients to create more inclusive programs. The CEO believes white, Asian and Arab students should be able to participate in activities that are currently exclusive to African American, Latino and Native American students, Clegg said.
“We’re not asking to end any programs,” Clegg said. “We think the opportunities should be open to all students — The overwhelming majority of schools have been willing to change these programs because it simply makes sense.”
Shelita Stewart ’04 said she is involved in an undergraduate research fellowship for minority students at Yale. She said that the University is “contemplating” a change that would make the fellowship program more inclusive. But Stewart said she believes the program’s original intent would be lost if it became open to all students.
“The purpose of the programs changes when they become all inclusive because the purpose is to target groups that are underrepresented in a field so that they will be more adequately represented,” Stewart said.
Stewart said the Concerned Black Students at Yale have been pressuring University administrators to take a stance on minority-specific and inclusive fellowship programs.
The CEO’s campaign to eliminate minority-specific scholarships and programs at universities could have a negative effect on the number of minorities enrolled in institutions around the nation, Stanford Vice President and General Council Debra Zumwalt said.
When universities do not comply with the CEO’s request, the group files a complaint against the school with the U.S. Department of Education. Clegg said the CEO has filed three to five such complaints, including one against Pepperdine University.