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UC Berkeley, FedEx to Split Fulbright Costs

March 06, 2004|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

FedEx Corp. and UC Berkeley will absolutely, positively leave no PhD behind.

The delivery service and the university announced Friday that they will split the cost of Fulbright scholarships for Berkeley doctoral students who were disqualified when FedEx did not pick up their applications on time.

The company, built on a promise to deliver packages "absolutely, positively" on time, will pay for half of the scholarships' still-undetermined cost, because "we all agreed those students should have a chance to pursue their dreams," FedEx spokeswoman Sandra Munoz said.

The deal, which Berkeley and FedEx officials said was brokered with the aid of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, may help end a dispute that began in the fall when a delivery foul-up knocked the university's students out of the running for the prestigious awards for research abroad. Berkeley and FedEx officials declined to specify how Schwarzenegger assisted in the agreement.

"The governor encouraged all parties to come to the table to find a solution in the best interest of the students," said Ashley Snee, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger, who said she had no further details.

UC Berkeley's applications had been readied for mailing on the Oct. 20 deadline to the U.S. Department of Education, which administers the federally funded program. But FedEx failed to pick the package up until the next day, resulting in the school's disqualification for missing the deadline.

After the Education Department declined to accept Berkeley's entries, the university began a months-long, cross-country lobbying effort to get the 30 students reinstated in the competition. Last month, the J. William Fulbright Scholarship Board agreed to create special Fulbright awards for the Berkeley students this year -- provided that the university found a way to pay for them.

The board agreed that the original Berkeley applicants would be judged in a separate selection process designed to approximate the competitiveness they would have faced in the normal judging.

The new scholarships will be administered by the Department of State under the agreement.

How much FedEx and the university will pay depends on how many Berkeley students are deemed worthy of the awards. Last year 30 of the university's doctoral students applied for the scholarships. Fifteen of them received the grants, totaling about $400,000.

The university said it would cover its share of the awards from an existing endowment for graduate fellowships.

Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl, who had flown to Washington during the negotiations, praised the agreement Friday. In a statement, he said that "the care and concern for these students shown by FedEx and Gov. Schwarzenegger is tremendously impressive."

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