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Provoking Debate?

College Republicans follow RWU in creating white scholarship

Citing a desire to “point out the absurdity of race-based scholarships” and “trigger a discussion on … the morally wrong practice … of basing decisions … on racial preferences,” the Boston University College Republicans have established an achievement scholarship for white students.

The Caucasian Achievement and Recognition Scholarship, announced at a College Republicans meeting on Tuesday, November 7, will award $250 to a full-time student with a GPA of 3.2 or above who is at least one-quarter Caucasian. Applicants are also required to submit their SAT scores and write two essays: one describing their ancestry, another explaining what it means to be a Caucasian-American today.

Students and administrators at the University have had a range of reactions to the announcement, some taking offense, others dismissing the scholarship as a stunt. But Joe Mroszczyk (CAS’07), the College Republicans president,  says it was the most effective way for the group to convey its message — that it is “pretty absurd to have a scholarship award reserved for any race.”

“This is in no way a white-supremacy thing or anything like that,” Mroszczyk says. “We realize that giving out a white scholarship is crazy, but we think giving out a scholarship based on any race is crazy.”

The group was inspired to create the scholarship by the past president of the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., who created a similar scholarship for white students in 2004. The one-quarter Caucasian designation, Mroszczyk says, is a direct response to the scholarships offered by Boston University and the National Hispanic Recognition Program, for which eligible applicants must be one-quarter Hispanic.

Applications for the scholarships are due November 30, and the College Republicans hope to announce the winner at a discussion forum that will explore some of the issues surrounding race- and ethnicity-based scholarships. Some students, however, say that the forum would have been a better place to start the dialogue.

“As an African-American, I’m appalled at the idea,” says Rochelle Murray (SED’07). “If they want to address the issue, why don’t they have a public forum with the Black Students Union?”

“I’m not a big fan of scholarships specifically for any particular race over another, but [the scholarship] seems to be a little extreme and potentially inflammatory,” says Theodore Atkinson (CAS’10). “Is reverse discrimination something that I think is a problem? Yes, somewhat, but I don’t think this is the right approach to take.”

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore agrees that the issue is worthy of debate, but questions the College Republicans’ approach.

“Our goal is to try to increase diversity on the campus, and that usually means diversity from an ethnic and racial standpoint. This scholarship does not further that goal,” he says. “It appears to me that they’re trying to push a debate as it relates to affirmative action and American society. I want students to know that I encourage debate, and will help student foster creative debate around the university. I hope the College Republicans and other students will try to do the same.”

Not all the responses were negative, however — Ashleigh Hommel (SMG’08) says that a scholarship such as this “might even out the playing field.” And amid criticism that the award is simply a provocative stunt, Mroszczyk, a second-year president of the organization, argues that without taking an extreme stance, the College Republicans are ignored on a liberal campus.

“The only way to have our voice heard is to do something satirical, something controversial, something humorous to get people aware of what we’re doing,” he says. “If we just brought in a speaker, it wouldn’t draw the crowd that something like this would.”

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.