Duke University is the latest higher educational institute to make a change following the 2023 Supreme Court ruling that ended affirmative action in admissions.

According to its student publication The Chronicle, the North Carolina college has officially discontinued its Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship Program. Since its inception in 1979, the merit scholarship was created for Black undergraduates, some of whom were required to demonstrate the need for financial assistance. It covered the cost of full tuition as well as room and board for those who were selected to be a part of the program.

“It is very much disheartening to hear that this program that opened the door for me to come to Duke is now being closed essentially, even though it will take on a new form,” Mya Harris, a current junior at the university, said.

The scholarship was named in honor of Duke’s first Black student government president, Reginaldo “Reggie” Harris, whose life was cut short as the result of an automobile accident in 1976 during his sophomore year.

While the original program will be no more, the Office of University Scholars and Fellows will partner with the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture to create the Reginaldo Howard Leadership Program, which will now be “open to all undergraduate students, regardless of race.” 

Moreover, the new scholarship installment “will not include a competitive selection process,” per the outlet.

“The Reginaldo Howard Leadership Program will honor Reggie Howard’s legacy by supporting Black academic excellence, intellectual community, and leadership on campus through an intentionally designed series of engagement opportunities,” wrote Candis Watts Smith, vice provost for undergraduate education, in an April 9 email to Reggie Scholars and alumni. 

Additionally, the Reggie Scholars received a notification to clarify the reasoning behind the decision, sharing that it was made “in light of changes to the legal landscape related to race-based considerations in higher education.”

Each year, roughly 15 to 20 Black students were brought on as Reggie Scholars, and current Scholars have expressed concern about not being a part of Duke’s decision to terminate the program.

“We were just kind of told what was happening as it was happening,” said sophomore Hanna Gedion. “We felt very powerless, to be honest with you.”

Despite their reservations and disappointments, the move was anticipated following the Supreme Court affirmative action ruling that, as previously reported by AFROTECH™, has led to a string of universities abruptly ending any initiatives in place to assist students from underserved communities who may not always have the same opportunities and resources for higher education as their white counterparts. 

“We’re all frustrated obviously, but we’ve been expecting it for a while, and looking for next steps already,” Gedion added. “We’re trying to find ways to preserve Reggie’s legacy.”

She continued, “We just want to make sure that Reginaldo Howard stays in the conversation in any way, shape or form that we can because he was a very prominent figure in Duke’s history, period — not Black Duke’s history, not Latino Duke’s history, just Duke’s history.”

All philanthropic funding previously set aside for the Reggie Scholarship will now go toward the new leadership program.