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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white

    Vanessa Valenzuelacolumnist
    Vanessa Valenzuela
    columnist

    Fall semester of my senior year of high school, I was called down to the counselor’s office to pick up an award. Upon my arrival, the counselor handed me a flimsy certificate that said “”College Board: National Hispanic Scholar”” on it, mumbled something about my PSAT scores and sent me back to class. When I got home I showed it to my parents, stuck it on the fridge and did not hear another thing about itð – that is, until my financial aid packages from different colleges began coming in the mail the following semester. I was ecstatic and my parents were thrilled to see that I was offered scholarships, but not everyone was so happy.

    While grade point averages, test scores and other considerations made me a solid competitor for scholarships, the “”Hispanic”” component of my scholarship awards angered some of my friends who were on equal

    When these programs were developed, they were useful in attempting to open doors to disadvantaged students and used race as a proxy for doing so.

    academic footing but were not up for consideration for additional scholarships as I was. Though the scholarship I received from the UA was not much more than what my friends received – as students can only use one tuition waiver regardless of how many they are granted – I could see why the principle bothered them.

    My friends are not alone. Angered students, parents and interest groups across the nation have been letting universities know how they feel about the practice of using race as a factor in admissions and scholarship eligibility by taking them to court or threatening to do so.

    The most notable of these cases were the two brought against the University of Michigan in 2003 concerning its admissions practices. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan law school’s general affirmative action policy, but struck down the university’s undergraduate formula because it actually awarded admission points based on race.

    Although the rulings allow colleges to continue using race as a factor in choosing students, a number of schools have taken this further by changing the role race plays in other academic decisions, particularly in awarding minority-only scholarships.

    Federal prosecutors of the Department of Justice are in settlement talks with Southern Illinois University after suing the school over three small graduate school scholarship programs aimed at women and minorities, saying the programs are discriminatory.

    That this pressure is prompting a number of universities to open up summer programs, fellowships and scholarships once reserved for minorities to everyone is a good thing.

    When these programs were developed, they were useful in attempting to open doors to disadvantaged students and used race as a proxy for doing so. This is no longer the same world that it was when these programs and the ideas behind them were novel and beneficial. The world today isn’t perfect, and our school populations don’t reflect the racial diversity of our country, but scholarships that exist solely for minorities do not do a proper job of getting the money where it needs to be. These days, race can no longer be assumed to be indicative of need and should not be used by our universities.

    Although scholarships and other programs attempt to serve a good purpose by functioning this way, more consideration needs to be given to socioeconomic class, as those minorities who have resources are essentially double dipping and those who truly need a leg up are being left out.

    Those who claim minorities are the ones who truly need the economic aid of these scholarships and programs should have no problem with shifting the emphasis from race to socioeconomic class. If it is indeed the minorities who now receive aid who are deserving of the financial help because of merit and economic need, they will be the students who continue to receive it.

    The attempt to add diverse perspectives to a university campus is not truly achieved simply by the addition of racial minorities. This is especially true if some of these minority students lived in the same middle-class neighborhoods, played on the same club sports teams and ate at the same lunch tables as their nonminority counterparts.


    Vanessa Valenzuela is a sophomore majoring in economics and international studies. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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