A woman filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Getty Foundation after she claims she was denied an undergraduate internship because she is white.
The suit, filed Friday, argues that Southern Utah University student Samantha Niemann “was deterred from applying” for the foundation’s Multicultural Undergraduate Internship in in February 2015 after she was told only black, Asian, Latino, Native-American and Pacific Islander students were considered, KCBS-TV reported.
According to the suit, Niemann — who is of German, Irish and Italian descent — was told by a Getty Foundation representative that her race and national origin made her ineligible.
With a diverse cultural background and a 3.7 grade-point average, the suit argues, Neimann was “well-qualified” for the program.
A description on the Getty Foundation’s website states that the Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program aims to “encourage greater diversity in the professions related to museums and the visual arts.”
The program supports “substantive, full-time summer work opportunities for college undergraduates from cultural backgrounds that have traditionally been underrepresented in the arts,” the website adds.
Niemann’s suit accuses Getty of violating her civil rights, racial discrimination and harassment and retaliation. The student is now seeking “unspecified compensatory and punitive damages,” according to KCBS.
Ron Hartwig, vice president of communications for the J. Paul Getty Trust, responded to the lawsuit in a written statement: “Over the past 23 years Getty grants have supported over 3,000 internships at 152 organizations throughout the county. 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.”
According to Hartwig, the Getty Foundation modified its eligibility criteria for 2016 applicants several months ago. The new criteria require that applicants be members of an underrepresented group, including but not limited to, those of black, Asian, Latino, Native-American or Pacific-Islander descent.
The modifications were reportedly instated following inquiries from potential applicants as well as internal and external discussions.