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Fulbright compromise reached

– In announcing a compromise that Chancellor Robert Berdahl called "more than satisfactory," the chair of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board said on Tuesday that the fellowship applications of 30 Berkeley graduate students will be considered despite a mixup over deadlines occasioned by an operational failure on the part of Federal Express. "The Board believes there is sufficient justification to consider the UC Berkeley applications," said Steven Uhlfelder following a teleconference call by the board's executive committee.

In his statement, Uhlfelder said that the board had asked the Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs - which administers Fulbright scholarship programs - to create a separate, special review of the Berkeley applications "that adheres fully to rigorous Fulbright guidelines."

The University of California will be responsible for securing the funding from non-U.S. government sources for any scholarships recommended for Berkeley students through this process.

Responding to the announcement, Chancellor Berdahl expressed gratitude to the Fulbright board "for the speed with which it addressed the issue" and for the leadership shown by Uhlfelder. The board understood, he said, "that the real concern had to be the impact on students. And they worked out a solution that, while not ideal, is more than satisfactory and provides a workable outcome to help the students."

Mary Ann Mason, dean of the Graduate Division, also praised the board's announcement. "The students are really appreciative that the board has taken this very assertive role in righting this situation," she said. "They have acted in a way a Fulbright board should. This means that our students will be able to compete for Fulbright awards, which is what they've wanted from the start."

The compromise allows Berkeley graduate students to cite the prestigious award among their accomplishments - should they merit a Fulbright scholarship under the program's rigorous standards - while placing the burden for funding on UC.

In response to questions about funding the grants, Berdahl said it was still not known how much funding would be required and that funds will come from the campus and other sources. "We are working with Federal Express and hope that it will see it has an obligation to assist us financially," he said.

The resolution follows a protracted dispute between the campus and the U.S. Department of Education, which disqualified Berkeley students from the competition after FedEx failed to make a scheduled pickup of their Fulbright applications on deadline day last fall.

Chancellor Berdahl traveled to Washington in January to argue the campus' case, and met with graduate students last week to inform them that the Education Department would not consider their applications. But after learning of the situation, the Fulbright board - which normally does not get involved in the administrative decisions of the Education or State Departments - stepped in to review the situation and help craft a compromise. It's important, Uhlfelder told The New York Times, "to make sure everyone feels they were treated fairly."