In an effort to “encourage discussion” on race-based scholarships, a student group called the Boston University College Republicans (BUCR) has instituted a controversial $250 “Caucasian Achievement and Recognition Scholarship“. Applicants must be at least 25% Caucasian, have a 3.2 GPA, and submit an essay on what it means to be a Caucasian-American in today’s society. BUCR argues that scholarships that are preferentially given to members of a certain race, and excluding others, are a form of bigotry no matter which way the discrimination swings. By their own definition, this scholarship is meant to be a token to raise awareness of their position (“the worst form of bigotry confronting America today”) rather than a bona fide “scholarship for white kids.”
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However, those considering applying for this scholarship may want to take heed of the situation of a similar winner, Adam Noska. A group at Noska’s college, Roger Williams University, awarded him a similar “whites-only” scholarship in the amount of $250, however he received more than just money. He also received notoriety. After receiving the scholarship, Noska was largely shunned by the campus and has been branded the ‘Big Racist’ on campus.
”I’m not a racist or a white supremacist,” Noska said last weekend, after deciding to donate the $250 and pledging to raise more for charity. ”I wasn’t prepared for the level of disappointment people have shown me. I mean, I’ve been overwhelmed. I became a minor celebrity on campus, and for the wrong reasons. I saw this splitting the campus community, and I’m worried that the school name could become synonymous with a whites-only scholarship. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”
Although he applied for the scholarship tongue-in-cheek, he quickly realized that the issue of race still demanded a higher level of sensitivity. However the scholarship was meant to be portrayed, as a tool for discussion or fuel for
But how is a scholarship meant for “whites only” any different than affirmative action which preferentially accepts minority applicants or bestows minority-only fellowships? The difference may exist in who holds the power in our society, and to what purpose such preferences are put into place. Cultural, socioeconomic, and gender barriers all exist to some extent in American culture–perhaps best evidenced by the startling low 6% enrollment of minorities at Roger Williams University itself. In order to ensure that universities, and students, benefit from a diverse education, often pro-active techniques are utilized to recruit minorities. These sort of actions are more difficult to justify when the demographic in question is already at 94%. The goal of higher education should be to broaden horizons, not just of one slice of America, but of the whole. While a discussion on how that can best be achieved is a significant one, that goal is only undermined when significant biases which persist in our culture are ignored rather than corrected.
(Note: cross posted here)