After Complaints, Google and IBM Reverse Course on Nomination Criteria Regarding Race-Conscious Fellowships

Leading companies have shouted from the rooftops about their diversity initiatives since the Black Lives Matter movement, but these giant tech companies are backtracking on their efforts–no cap.

Google and IBM are quietly replacing nomination criteria for their distinguished research fellowships that originally required that half of each school’s nominees be underrepresented minorities, putting a cap on the number of white and Asian students who can be nominated by their universities. The fellowships recognize and support exceptional graduate students with stipends and mentorship opportunities within the areas of technology and computer science.

The Washington Free Beacon previously reported that Google’s Ph.D. Fellowship criteria has been in place since at least April 2020 and civil rights lawyers informed that it is “almost certainly illegal” both for Google and participating universities.

The original criteria that allow universities to nominate up to four students require that universities who choose to nominate more than two students are to abide by stipulations that 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.”

Complaints express that the organizations are discriminating based on race and sex and violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Approximately two weeks prior to the reversals, Google defended its nominating criteria for its Ph.D Fellowship insisting that the requirements were “extremely common” and followed “all relevant laws.”

However, recent reports confirm that after facing heavy legal problems, both Google and IBM dropped the caps replacing the diversity mandates with “suggestions.”

Currently, the updated criteria encourage universities to nominate students with diverse backgrounds, suggesting that if more than two students are nominated, the additional students identify as underrepresented minorities.

IBM‘s requirement that half of the nominees for its Ph.D. fellowship program be “diversity candidates” was quietly replaced with a request that schools instead, “consider a diverse slate of candidates,” the Free Beacon reported after contacting the corporation.

An IBM statement noted, “IBM has a long-standing commitment to promoting diversity, and the prior language was changed because it did not reflect the company’s practices or policy.”

Courtenay Mencini, a spokesperson for Google, said the change was made to “clarify our nomination criteria.” He expressed that the company stands by its original statement.

In emails obtained by the Free Beacon, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights received complaints against participating schools that include Harvard University, Princeton University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania,  Duke University, New York University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Johns Hopkins University, and Carnegie Mellon University, asking that each one apologize for the “sexism and racism it has engaged in.”

The recent reversals still ask schools to nominate a diverse pool of candidates, but no longer limit how many whites and Asians can submit.