Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Republicans offer white scholarship

BU group offers white scholarship

Award meant to protest race-based scholarships

Clarissa Bottesini
Posted: 11/21/06

Looking to draw attention to what they call the "worst form of bigotry confronting America today," Boston University's College Republicans are circulating an application for a "Caucasian Achievement and Recognition Scholarship" that requires applicants be at least 25 percent Caucasian.

"Did we do this to give a scholarship to white kids? Of course not," the scholarship reads. "Did we do it to trigger a discussion on what we believe to be the morally wrong practice of basing decisions in our schools and our jobs on racial preferences rather than merit? Absolutely."

The scholarship, which is privately funded by the BUCR without the support of the university, is meant to raise awareness, group members say. BUCR member argue that racial preferences are a form of "bigotry." The group has a similar view on affirmative action.

The application for the $250 scholarship, due Nov. 30, requires applicants be full-time BU undergraduate students and one-fourth Caucasian and maintain at least a 3.2 cumulative GPA. Applicants must submit two essays, one describing the applicant's ancestry and one describing "what it means to you to be a Caucasian-American today."

BUCR President Joe Mroszczyk said he spoke to Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore before publicly releasing the scholarship to make sure it would be legal. Mroszczyk said BUCR members also talked to others beforehand, some of whom were initially "agitated or upset" but understood the point after members explained themselves, he said.

"If you give out a white scholarship, it's racist, and if you give out a Hispanic scholarship, it is OK," the College of Arts and Sciences senior said. "It is the main point. We are not doing this scholarship as a white-supremacy scholarship."

La Fuerza Co-Chair Sara-Marie Pons, who is also on the Admissions Student Diversity Board, said although she agrees with BUCR's claim that racial preference is "contradictory to our American ideals of freedom and equality," she feels American history justifies today's affirmative action." Our country oppressed people of color for centuries while everyone else who was 'preferred' continued to succeed and lead our country in all aspects," the School of Management senior said in an email. "The goal of a university in striving to admit more students of color is a positive movement to increase the diversity of its institution."

Pons said the university's diversity creates a "better learning environment" and "dynamic discussion." She said she believes minority-specific scholarships serve an important function.

"While I can see the controversy over scholarships toward specific ethnic groups, we need to keep in mind its intention," she said. "The [group-specific] scholarship is there to increase the interest of students in that group to continue their education and reach the equality that we all strive for."

After the recipient is chosen, BUCR plans to host an event to honor the winner and speak about the award, as well as hold a forum discussion about racial preference, Mroszczyk said.

Mroszczyk said the BUCR borrowed the scholarship idea from the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., which sponsored a similar award in 2003. Former RWU College Republicans President Jason Mattera said the "whites-only" scholarship was meant to be a parody, but it brought harsh media attention to their campus.

Mattera, now the Young American's Foundation National Spokesman, a group supporting the conservative movement, said the idea was spurred when RWU administrators "compiled a list of scholarships for people of color only." Although Mattera, a Puerto Rican, would have been eligible for some of these scholarships, he said he still wanted to "expose the inequities."

RWU College Republicans adviser June Speakman said the organization started receiving complaints as soon as it released the scholarship. Despite protests, 15 students applied for the scholarship.

"It was a way to make their protests highly visible, provocative," she said. "They stuck to their guns. They were steadfast."

Speakman said the scholarship was discontinued after its first year when the national and state Republican parties severed ties with RWU College Republicans.

Mattera said people were aware the scholarship had "nothing to do with racism," but the Republican National Committee still did not want to be affiliated with the scholarship.

"The RNC under [former chair] Ed Gillespie disagreed with me," Mattera said. "For Ed Gillespie to be dismissive or to imply that there was racism, he lacked any type of -- to put it bluntly -- balls in standing up against racial preferences. It would have been a great opportunity."

Regarding BU's adaptation of this scholarship, Mattera said he is glad the BUCR is interested in continuing to promote awareness.

"I guarantee that once this happens, be ready for hypocritical charges of racism, and be ready to be attacked," Mattera said, "but once they attack you, the hypocrisy is exposed."


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