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Google PhD fellowship discriminates against white and Asian students, but many elite universities still comply

Since at least 2009, Google has offered generous fellowships to up and coming computer science scholars seeking financial support during their final years of study. A new report from the Washington Free Beacon now reveals that Google has long included a racist criterium to prevent colleges and universities from nominating too many qualified white and Asian students for the fellowship.

Google claims that it offers the fellowship “to recognize outstanding graduate students doing exceptional and innovative research in areas relevant to computer science and related fields.” And though it likewise purports that fellowships are available to “promising PhD candidates of all backgrounds,” the nomination process Google has established directly limits the number of male, white, and Asian students who can be considered.

Under the fellowship FAQ section, Google states that applicants — except those from Africa, India, or southeast Asia — must be nominated by their school. It also states that American and Canadian universities may nominate up to four students total, only two of whom may be able-bodied white or Asian males.

“If a university chooses to nominate more than two students,” Google states, “then in order to increase opportunities for students who are underrepresented in the field of computing the third and fourth nominees must self-identify as a woman, Black / African descent, Hispanic / Latino / Latinx, Indigenous, and/or a person with a disability.”

It is unclear whether Google means to imply that applicants may “self-identify” as black, Hispanic, indigenous, or disabled.

As the Washington Free Beacon notes, many of the schools which have submitted nominees for the fellowship also have anti-discrimination policies which would prohibit them from selecting nominees based on race and gender. These include elite Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, as well as notable state schools like the University of North Carolina, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Berkeley. MIT, NYU, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and others have also submitted nominations.

And by complying with the race and gender parameters for the fellowship, these same schools may also be violating federal law.

“The Google Fellowship program is a blatantly unlawful and immoral quota plan that pits students against one another by skin color and ethnic heritage,” said Edward Blum, the founder of Students for Fair Admissions. “Our nation’s enduring civil rights laws were passed to specifically forbid this type of racial discrimination.”

Despite the accusations of racial and gender discrimination, Google stands by its policy.

“Like many companies, we actively encourage a broad range of individuals to apply to our PhD Fellowship program in order to attract the widest and most representative pool of applicants possible—this follows all relevant laws and is extremely common to do,” a Google spokesperson said.

Google further stated that the selection process to determine the final awardees “is not based on demographics in any way.”

It is unclear how many white and Asian males have ever received a Google fellowship.