Republican lawmakers are urging the Department of Education to investigate government-funded universities involved in a Google-sponsored fellowship that imposed restrictions on white and Asian students.
Representatives Chip Roy (R, TX-21), Mary Miller (R, IL-15) and Bob Good (R, VA-5) sent a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona instructing him to check if federal anti-discrimination laws may be used against universities that participated in the Google Ph.D. Fellowship program.
The Google Ph.D. Fellowship, which lets participating universities nominate four Ph.D. students each year, came under fire from advocates this year for limiting the number of white and Asian students that universities can nominate.
“Universities in the United States and Canada may nominate up to four eligible students from Computer Science or related fields,” a deleted FAQ page from Google’s outreach program read. “If more than two are nominated, then in order to increase opportunities for students who are underrepresented in the field of computing, additional nominees must self-identify as a woman, Black/African American, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic/Latinx, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and/or person with a disability. In other words, if a university chooses to nominate more than 2 students, then the 3rd and 4th student nomination should self-identify with the underrepresented group mentioned above.”
Following complaints that the policy was discriminatory against Asians, Google quietly modified the FAQs. In place of the previous quota requirement, the company now “strongly encourage[s]” additional nominees from the previously mentioned categories.
“We encourage nominating students with diverse backgrounds especially those from historically marginalized groups in the field of computing,” the page now says. “If more than two students are nominated then we strongly encourage additional nominees who self-identify as a woman, Black / African descent, Hispanic / Latino / Latinx, Indigenous, and/or a person with a disability.”
Edward Blum, founder of the advocacy group Students for Fair Admissions, accused the program of racial bias.
“The Google Fellowship program is a blatantly unlawful and immoral quota plan that pits students against one another by skin color and ethnic heritage,” Blum was quoted as saying. “Our nation’s enduring civil rights laws were passed to specifically forbid this type of racial discrimination.”
In their letter, the Republican lawmakers echoed the advocate’s view on the matter, highlighting that the Google fellowship imposed “unconstitutional race and sex diversity quotes.”
“Any federally funded university that changed their nominating criteria to meet Google’s discriminatory and harmful rules unjustly stripped hard-working and talented students of the opportunity to even be considered for one of the most valuable fellowships in the STEM world, solely because of their race, sex, or disability status,” read the letter. “The American people deserve answers and transparency, and every gifted STEM student at a taxpayer-funded university deserves a level playing field.”
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