Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

SIU Opens Minority Fellowships to All Students: University Complies with Department of Justice to Avoid Costly Legal Battle

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

SIU Opens Minority Fellowships to All Students: University Complies with Department of Justice to Avoid Costly Legal Battle

Article excerpt

CARBONDALE, Ill.

The Southern Illinois University board of trustees voted unanimously last month to accept a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice that averts a potential lawsuit over three graduate fellowships. The Justice Department had threatened to sue the school on the grounds that the fellowships, aimed at ethnic minorities and women, were discriminatory. Rather than face an expensive and likely fruitless legal battle, the university relented, opening the fellowships to all students.

"The board's decision to settle this issue preserves Southern Illinois University's fundamental right to recruit faculty and students from all backgrounds, while reaffirming that this university will exercise such rights within the parameters of all equal employment opportunity laws," said SIU President Glenn Poshard after the trustee vote.

According to SIU General Counsel Jerry Blakemore, the university admitted no guilt and suffered no fines or fees by accepting the settlement. The students currently enrolled in the fellowships will keep their funding and face no punishment from the government. Blakemore says SIU's lawyers, an independent law firm and attorneys from across the state all concluded that it would be an unnecessary waste to fight the Justice Department in court.

"I have advised [Poshard] and the board of trustees that it would be highly unlikely that we would be successful in litigating this case," Blakemore says. The legal team also agreed with the Justice Department's position that fellowship recipients were employees of the university, rather than students, because they were required to work a minimum number of hours each week. …

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