The university is hoping to free up grant money for the Lydia C. Roberts Graduate Fellowship from its stipulations which include, among other things, a restriction to students "of the caucasian race."
The rules governing the fund cannot be changed without a court order, which is why the fund's trustees have filed papers with the Manhattan Supreme Court to lift the restrictions, the New York Post reported.
"Circumstances have so changed from the time when the Trust was established" that complying with the restrictions is "impossible," the filing said. "Columbia University is now prohibited by law and University policy from discriminating on the basis of race."
Roberts, the fellowship's namesake, left most of her $509,000 estate to Columbia when she died in 1920. In addition, Roberts fellows are prohibited from studying several fields, including law, and must not only hail from Iowa but must return to the Hawkeye State for two years after graduating.
The Roberts fellowship was last given out in 1997, when, according to the court papers, it was suspended for financial reasons.
“The trust contains certain provisions that are impracticable and/or are inconsistent with Columbia’s administrative procedure,” assistant provost Lucy Drotning said in the papers.