Southern Illinois University and the U.S. Justice Department will begin talks aimed at settling a dispute over minority fellowships that federal officials call discriminatory, the university said earlier this week.
Both sides agreed to discuss the three graduate fellowship programs for women and underrepresented minorities “in an effort to avoid expensive, protracted and unnecessary litigation,” David Gross, SIU’s executive assistant to the president, said in a statement.
A letter sent by the Justice Department last week demanded that SIU discontinue the fellowships or face a lawsuit. The letter alleges the fellowships violate Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and result in “intentional discrimination against Whites, non-preferred minorities and males.”
The letter threatened court action by last Friday if SIU failed to drop the fellowships, but no lawsuit was filed after the two sides scheduled this week’s teleconference and ultimately agreed to settlement talks.
SIU officials last week denied that the fellowships are discriminatory, saying the financial aid incentives promote the university’s tradition of diversity and opening its doors to everyone.
This week’s teleconference “helped clarify the concerns raised regarding the programs and their actual purposes,” Gross said in a statement. Gross and the Justice Department did not immediately return calls for further comment.
The pending talks are confidential and no timetable on a possible settlement or information about meetings will be released, according to SIU’s statement.
— Associated Press
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