A Southern Utah University student sued the Getty Foundation on Friday, alleging she was “deterred from applying” for an internship because she is white.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, accuses Getty of racial discrimination, civil rights violations, harassment and retaliation. She is seeking “unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.”
According to CBS Los Angeles, Samantha Niemann intended to apply for Getty’s Multicultural Undergraduate Internship in Feb. 2015, but was told by a representative that “only black, Asian, Latino, Native-American and Pacific Islanders” were eligible.
CBS Los Angeles reports Niemann is of German, Irish and Italian descent.
The internship is intended for “outstanding students” interested in careers relating to museums and visual arts, according to The Getty Foundation website. A list of eligibility requirements state that students must be “of a group underrepresented in museums and visual arts organizations, including, but not limited to, individuals of African American, Asian, Latino/Hispanic, Native American, or Pacific Islander descent.”
Ron Hartwig, vice president of communications for the J. Paul Getty Trust, said the organization regularly updates eligibility requirements for its various internship programs.
“Over the past 23 years Getty grants have supported over 3,000 internships at 152 organizations throughout the county,” Hartwig said in a statement. “We review and revise all of our grant categories from time to time and over the years have made a number of policy and procedural changes to the internship program.”
The lawsuit said that Niemann’s 3.7 grade point average made her “well qualified” for the internship.
According to CBS Los Angeles, Getty modified eligibility requisites for 2016 several months ago due to an influx of applicant inquiries.
The Niemann suit represents a national trend in so-called “reverse discrimination” lawsuits filed by white students.
The now infamous Rachel Dolezal sued Howard University for discrimination back in 2002, alleging she had been denied scholarships and teaching positions based on her race. Dolezal, then known as Rachel Moore, also claimed the historically black university removed her artwork from an exhibit to “favor African-American students over Moore,” the suit said. A judge eventually ruled her claims baseless.
In 2013, three white Minneapolis Community and Technical College students filed a racial discrimination complaint against their Black professor over her lecture on structural racism. Shannon Gibney regularly taught the lesson as part of her Introduction to Mass Communications class. She was formally reprimanded by academic affairs for creating a “hostile learning environment” for students.
That same year, University of Texas student Abigail Fisher sued the institution after her application was rejected in 2008. Fisher claimed she was rejected in favor of minority applicants due to the school’s affirmative action policy. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, with Fisher winning in a landmark 7-1 decision. The court reexamined the case in December of 2015.
As Black student organizations across the United States stage protests against rampant prejudice and discrimination on college campuses, some white students are creating their own unions in response.
White Student Unions have begun to pop up on college campuses. The Huffington Post reported the unions at over 30 institutions, including New York University, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and the University of Illinois.
While unions at the former institutions are mostly informal and unsanctioned, Towson University in Maryland attempted to make theirs official in 2012. The college refused to recognize the organization.
A 2015 poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 43 percent of Americans believe discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as that against Blacks and minorities.