Woman claims she was denied Getty Foundation internship because she's white

- A woman is suing the Getty Foundation, alleging she was denied an undergraduate internship with the institution because she is white.

Samantha Niemann's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges violation of her civil rights, racial discrimination and harassment, as well as retaliation. She's seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Ron Hartwig, vice president of communications for the J. Paul Getty Trust, issued a statement Monday in response to the lawsuit.

"The Getty is very proud of the highly successful Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program launched by the Getty Foundation in 1993 in order to increase the diversity of professional staff in museums and visual arts organizations in (Los Angeles) County,'' the statement reads. "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.''

Due to inquiries from potential applicants as well as internal and external discussions, several months ago the Getty modified the eligibility criteria for 2016 to state that applicants must be members of an underrepresented group, including but not limited to, those of black, Asian, Latino, Native-American or Pacific-Islander descent, according to the statement.   

The suit filed Friday states that in February 2015, Niemann "was deterred from applying'' for the internship program and told that only black, Asian, Latino, Native-American and Pacific-Islander candidates were eligible.

A Getty Foundation representative confirmed to Niemann -- who is of German, Irish and Italian descent -- that she was disqualified from applying because of her race and national origin, the suit says.

Niemann was "well-qualified'' for the internship because she was a student at Southern Utah University with a 3.7 grade-point average, according to her court papers.

The Getty Foundation's website states that the Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program is aimed at encouraging "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 states.

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