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Southern Illinois University Begins Talks Over Fellowship Dispute

Southern Illinois University Begins Talks Over Fellowship Dispute

Southern Illinois University and the U.S. Department of Justice will begin talks aimed at settling a dispute over minority fellowships that federal officials call discriminatory, the university said last month.

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,” said David Gross, SIU’s executive assistant to the president, in a statement.

A letter sent by the Justice Department demanded that SIU discontinue the fellowships or face a lawsuit. The letter alleges the fellowships violate Title VI 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 Nov. 18 if SIU failed to drop the fellowships, but no lawsuit was filed after the two sides scheduled a teleconference and ultimately agreed to settlement talks (see Diverse, Dec. 1, 2005).

SIU officials denied that the fellowships are discriminatory, saying the financial aid incentives promote the university’s tradition of diversity and opening its doors to everyone.

The teleconference “helped clarify the concerns raised regarding the programs and their actual purposes,” Gross said.

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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