Affirmative Action With A Twist

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Jason Mattera is fast becoming the most famous college student in America. The Roger Williams University junior drew on his own experiences as an applicant for “minority” scholarships in order to create the headline-making scholarship for white students at his university.

“I’m already at an advantage on campus because I have Puerto Rican blood in me over my classmates who are white but who might have similar grade point averages or financial needs,” Mattera told us.

The journalism major designed the application along the lines of forms he himself had to fill our in order to apply for minority scholarships. Mattera has received scholarship money, in doing so, from a fund for Hispanic students. That particular scholarship that Mattera benefited from is not run by Roger Williams University.

Applicants for the “$50 scholarship award available to students of non-color” are expected to complete a one-page application, attach a 100-word essay, and submit a photograph. On the essay, scholarship applicants are asked to “write why you are proud of your white heritage and explain what being white means to you.” The application also asks for a photo “to confirm whiteness.” “Evidence of bleaching will disqualify applicants,” the application warns.

The application and essay are not that dissimilar to minority scholarship forms Mattera filled out. “You usually had to fill out a four-page application and write an essay on a topic like ‘Why I want to be a Hispanic leader,’” Mattera told us.

As to the photo requirement that many critics of the fund objected to, Mattera has pointed out that this is a standard requirement in applications for minority scholarships. “Minority scholarships do ask for pictures,” Mattera pointed out on Fox TV’s Hannity and Colmes. “Why do they ask for pictures?” he asked his hosts rhetorically. “It’s to see if, what, you’re black or not.”

Within days of the fund’s unveiling, donors pledged thousands of dollars to cover the cost of the scholarship originally pegged at $50. “We’re not going to turn it into an endowment,” Mattera told us. “We’re trying to make a political statement.”

To help publicize the statement, the College Republicans chapter that Mattera chairs has persuaded noted African-American conservative Reginald Jones to present the award. Jones distributed the prize while on campus to deliver the lecture, “How the Civil Rights Movement destroyed the Black Community.”

Jason Mattera interned with the Young America’s Foundation’s National Journalism Center (NJC) last summer. While with the NJC, the Brooklyn native worked as an intern for syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

Ironically, the university, whose own guidelines for minority scholarships inspired Mattera and his compatriots to create their alternative, is taking a hands-off approach to the project. In previous go-arounds, the school had frozen funding for the College Republicans’ publication, The Hawk’s Right Eye, over a series of articles the newsletter had run attacking the gay rights movement.