Measured Against Reality

Monday, April 30, 2007

Rhode Island Controversy

My home state, Rhode Island, seldom makes the news. But it has done so twice in the past five years or so over the same thing: a scholarship for white males. The first time this happened it was by the College Republicans at Roger Williams University (some five minutes from my house), this time it's the same group at the University of Rhode Island (this time they tacked on "heterosexual" to white male). It was even for the same amount, $100, not even enough to buy my Electromagnetics book.

Pretty much the same thing happened this time as last time, except this got slightly less national press and the university didn't handle it as well. Oh, and no one won it this time. Here's the backlash:

The student senate was not amused, and in February the Student Organizations Advisory and Review Committee demanded that the College Republicans: A) not award the $100 scholarship, B) apologize in writing for having violated the anti-discrimination section of the senate’s bylaws, and C) seek permission from the senate before mounting any programs in the next 12 months. The group cheerfully agreed to A – why not? – and declined to comply with B and C.

In response the Advisory and Review Committee exercised the nuclear option and voted to derecognize the group, in spite of the fact that Robert Carothers, the university’s president, had declared on April 6 that it was unconstitutional to require the College Republicans to “make public statements which are not their own.” (The relevant First Amendment category is “compelled speech.”)

The funny thing about this, and what most sane people usually recognize right away, is that white males are automatically denied many scholarships. Don't believe me? Go to any scholarship search service, and large numbers of them are directly for minorities. Even when I told Fastweb that I'm a white male, I still got tons of minority- or women-only scholarships. All that the college republicans are doing is pointing this out, and showing that when someone discriminates the other way people get angry.

I'll never understand why this matters to those people. This is like when College Republican groups have bake sales and charge more to minorities (reverse affirmative action), they want the backlash, they want it because it shows how intolerant the supposedly tolerant people are.

Honestly, tolerance isn't accepting people with different skin color or sexual orientation; it's accepting people with different ideas. Every decent human being understands that all people are the same when skin or sex is concerned. It doesn't take any kind of feat to accept them; it's much more difficult to accept people with whom you vehemently disagree. (Yes, I'm aware that there is still discrimination against some people in the world. I mean acceptance at an individual level, not at a societal level. We're not even close to acceptance at the societal level for many peoples.)

By pulling these stunts the College Republicans showcase one of the many hypocrisies of our culture. If the liberals who disagree with their positions want to deal with them in a liberal way, then debate their ideas, don't shut them down. I find that far too often that's the reaction to things that liberals don't like to hear (especially on college campuses), and it's more disgusting than some Republican positions.

What do I think about the scholarship itself? They make a good point that there are many scholarships that outright bar white males from applying. But there are two things to keep in mind: First, there are thousands of scholarships available, most of which are open to anyone; Second, it's private money and people are free to do what they want with it. If I wanted to give a bunch of money to college students, I'd pretty much go for those who need it regardless of outer characteristics, but some people feel the need to correct for past and present inequalities based on superficial characteristics. Just as they are free to offer scholarships to one group, so should the College Republicans be free to offer their puny scholarship. As a form of protest against the state of scholarships, I think it's weak. But as a demonstration of how intolerant college liberals are, it's beautiful.

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  • I figured out what the CR were doing after the second sentence of your blog. How is it that people couldn't see it and decided to take such ridiculous actions.

    I honestly don't get people sometimes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:08 PM, April 30, 2007  

  • Are you saying that white males don't get scholarships? Cause that is a pretty outrageous claim to make. I know many, many white males that got or are getting scholarships. Even in little Rhody.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:13 PM, April 30, 2007  

  • Second anonymous, I am not making that claim. It would be really stupid of me since I am a white male and have received scholarships. I'm just pointing out that many scholarships exist that explicitly bar certain people based on superficial characteristics, and none exist that cater specifically to white males. I'm also not saying that's a bad thing.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 2:17 PM, April 30, 2007  

  • There are scholarships that are targeted specifically to "white" people that can go to males - they're from white ethnic groups. If a scholarship is given by a Polish or Irish group to someone who most would agree was a white male, no one says anything about it. There's a very large Scottish organization that funds many Scottish (white) men and women - name escapes me right now. The problem is that while it's seen as acceptable to discriminate based on ethnicity, it's not seen as acceptable to discriminate on race, at least where hetero white males are concerned.

    By Blogger Peter M., at 4:26 PM, April 30, 2007  

  • Peter, those also generally go to groups that have been discriminated against, such as the Irish. I applied for an Italian-American one myself.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 4:29 PM, April 30, 2007  

  • I find it interesting that you attach the label "liberal" to the advisory committee and the senate. Why do you make that claim? If you're going to take issue with "college liberals" at least provide some information to show that the people you're claiming are "liberals" really are "liberals."

    Of course, it's your blog so you don't have to, but you do seem like a pretty reasonable person, and I think your argument would benefit from adequately backing up your claims.

    By Anonymous Seemant Kulleen, at 10:03 PM, April 30, 2007  

  • Seemant Kulleen, I did just assume that they are. But I'm pretty certain that they are, and I'm not disparaging liberals in general (I count myself as one). College campuses have a well-deserved tradition of being overwhelmingly liberal, and I'd be pretty surprised if URI isn't the same way (and judging from the conversations I've had with my friends who go there, it is).

    In short, I have no proof that they are, but their actions fit with the description. If you like I could ask someone who goes there, which would be slightly more definite.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 10:09 PM, April 30, 2007  

  • There's a difference between private individuals creating a scholarship and the Republicans on campus giving a scholarship. Private money can be given based on height or ethnicity, but school money can't discriminate based on things like ethnicity. So there is not ANY 'whites-only' OR 'minority-only' money offered from the school itself, for sure. Failure to understand this distinction leads to all the charges of 'reverse-descrimination'.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:50 AM, May 01, 2007  

  • I think this is about the purpose of scholarships. Scholarships for minorities are an attempt to solve a particular problem. That problems is that the social goods in the US are unevenly divided when you take race or gender into account. For example, while white males make up app 37% of the population but have well over 90% of the governorships, representative positions, senators, etc.

    If you think that this unequal division is due to historical accident, then you might want to try and rectify it.

    (If you don't think the unequal division is due to historical accident, you must argue that it's either biological in nature, or that somehow minorities and females deserve less social goods due to their personal choices).

    Rectifying the unequal division of social goods can only be done in 1 of 2 ways: either take social goods away from white males now and distribute them to others, or make sure that the growth of social goods is distributed away from white males towards other races or women. In general, our society opts for some weak version of option 2 in the form of Affirmative Action and minority only scholarships.

    By offering scholarships for white males only, College Republicans are saying that this isn't a problem. That either 1) there is no unequal division of social goods, or 2) white males deserve their privilege in the distribution of social goods.

    This offends some people.

    Personally, I don't think that the College Republicans are the social good division. Rather, I think that all lot of young people have a simplistic view of fairness and a penchant towards victimhood. As a result, whenever they see themselves on the "outside", their sense of justice is inflamed and they make simplistic arguments based on anecdotal evidence. Young people in general rarely look at the unfair privileges that may have been bestowed on them; they take these as a given.

    I think College Republicans would be better served by sponsoring minority scholarships based on meritocracy, or by offering scholarships based upon economics rather than race if they think that economic class is the problem. I think this would fit more with their market-based economic philosophy.

    Hope this helps,
    Kilroy Was Here

    By Anonymous Kilroy Was Here, at 8:26 AM, May 01, 2007  

  • Personally I think scholarships should heavily favor those who could not otherwise afford college and should not be so focused on the idea that white = rich versus minority = deprived. Spend some time down in far southwestern Virginia in some Appalachian town and tell me the white kids from there are somehow more fortunate than some African American kid who grew up in the middle class and attended schools in Fairfax or Arlington.

    I don't understand Kilroy's concept of "social goods" as justification for seeking to "even the field". To accept that scholarships should be available more to minorities rather than to all deserving students sounds like discrimination. If the focus is on poor minorities, then it amounts to an assumption that minority = poor and that some poor are more deserving of a break than other poor people.

    By Blogger Catzmaw, at 5:18 PM, May 01, 2007  

  • Kilroy, you are completely full of it. Everyone gets what they deserve based on their own personal actions. Fair? Who said anything about fair? We d not practise communism. We should not have to "spread evenly" anything. You are the only one responsible for making something out of your life. Pulling the race card should get you nothing. All scholarships should be based on acedemic merit alone. I am sick of hearing about having to help the poor or the minorities. It is up to these people to help themselves. it can be done, you just have to be smart and work hard.If you are not smart or don't work hard, then you do not deserve a break. It is pretty simple.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:36 PM, May 11, 2007  

  • Scholarships exclusively for minorities should not be awarded based strictly on someone’s race or ethnicity. I believe that scholarships should be based on academic merit and financial need. Those students that have worked hard in high school and earned good grades should be rewarded for their efforts. Consider grades before race and ethnicity. Scholarships should also look at financial need and a students’ plans to pay for college. I believe if a student plans to pay for their college on their own without help from someone else, they should be considered more closely for scholarships taking that into account. I personally know someone who plans on paying for their entire college education themselves like many of those students attending college. This person worked very hard to get where they were and did not get rewarded for their efforts. They plan to continue this hard work in college by paying for their education. I believe that this work ethic and determination should be rewarded by scholarships. Along with academic merit, financial need and character should be considered when awarding scholarships. Every scholarship should be open to all students no matter their race, ethnicity, or gender and be decided based on academic merit, financial need, and the applicant’s character.

    By Anonymous effectmajor, at 6:44 AM, November 05, 2007  

  • I stumbled across this looking for a scholarship for myself. I do think that it is wrong that there are no scholarships designed specifically for white males. I mean they have scholarship designed for people by their race but not white people. I personally didnt go to college right out of high school. Im 26 now and wanting to go back to school but money is a problem hadnt figured out how to fund my education yet. I see all kinds of scholarships out there but if I were of a different race Id already have one. Im sure sooner or later Ill find something that fits me but Ive been looking for quite a while. I personally believe that should leave what race you are and your gender out of the equation when deciding who gets what scholarship. I mean it reall is bull that one person get a scholarship and one doesnt just based on race or gender.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:39 AM, December 28, 2007  

  • This is a very interesting topic, if not because of the subject matter, then certainly the responses it has generated. There are a lot of problems with the way scholarship money is doled out.

    You can take nearly ANY caucasian male on any campus anywhere in the country and each will have a story to tell. However, based solely on the wrongs that previous generations enacted on previous generations of minorities - we are all at a huge disadvantage when it comes to winning a scholarship.

    Currently, I've now applied for over 40 scholarships without getting so much as a denial letter. That's pretty poor response. It's not my grades (3.9 gpa) that are holding me back. It's not my major (nursing). It's nothing more than my skin color and the fact that I belong to a group that has historically been responsible for performing horrible atrocities against other groups of people.

    Now, a little research may show you that these were not educated rich folks that performed the majority of these atrocities. It could very well be that by denying caucasian males scholarships that there will be very brutal ramifications. Denied an education for lack of ability to find funding could cause some - lacking in education - few other avenues for survival than violence.

    Personally, I must agree with the poster that suggested that ALL scholarships should be merit based. Reward students who work hard with money to continue their educational pursuit. Worst case scenario - a bunch of REALLY smart people will not have to pay back student loans and might take over very powerful roles in our world.

    After 8 years of living in a country lead by a "C" student. I can't help but think that this last alternative would benefit EVERYONE.

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