The Roger Williams University College Republicans caused quite a stir among students, civilians and university officials by announcing the offering of a scholarship only available to white students.
The club, headed by RWU senior and College Republican President Jason Mattera along with RWU senior and College Republican executive director Monique Stuart justify the white scholarship by the high number of non-white ethnic scholarships available.
“It is a protest against affirmative action,” Stuart said.
Stuart and the club believe it is racist for minorities to have all scholarships open to them while whites can only apply for those not specifically for people of color.
In a statement published on RWU’s College Republican website, Stuart said “whites are assumed to be rich, which puts white kids at a ‘handicap.’”
The scholarship application asks for a 100-word essay asking the student why they are proud of their white heritage. It also requires a photo and states that “bleaching of skin will disqualify you,” wording which is seen by some as unnecessary or offending, Stuart said.
The College Republicans have been getting nationwide attention for the scholarship, both negative and positive. The scholarship award began at $50, but has grown with the support of donations to more than $2,000. They have been receiving donations as small as $10 from community members and as large as $1,000 from a lawyer in California.
As for negative reactions, the action has been seen as supporting white supremacy. The club defends their action strongly by blaming scholarships for minorities for the same fault.
“If we are racist for offering a whites-only scholarship, then the university is racist for offering minority-only scholarships,” Stuart said in her online statement.
Most reactions that have been negative toward the white-only scholarship have issues with how the club phrased the application and how they made their statement. University of Wisconsin associate professor of English and Asian-American studies Leslie Bow looked at the situation objectively, taking into account both sides of the issue.
“I think white [heritage] studies are important, but the essay and the way it’s articulated could be done in a different way. It is dangerous because it supports white supremacy,” Bow said.
Some students who heard about the scholarship were surprised, perhaps because of the country’s history of white supremacy and racism being challenged.
“It makes me think of how so often a guy’s reaction to women’s studies courses is to say, ‘what about men’s studies.’ That scholarship makes it seem as if there are no other opportunities for whites to get scholarships, when in reality I feel like the only reason there is a need for minority specific scholarships is because they are so easily excluded from scholarship opportunities whites have,” UW sophomore Audra Blackburn said.
The club is not certain how they will allocate the donations or if they will offer the scholarship past this year. Of their positive feedback from the public, they have received e-mails and calls from students at different universities who are interested in the scholarship, especially if it could be awarded at their school. College Republicans is not directly affiliated with Roger Williams University but is composed of RWU students.