UConn's Scholarship Bait-and-Switch

SupremeCourtbuilding_2It’s well-known that our government still allots benefits or disadvantages based on an individual’s race. Every admissions season, taxpayer-funded colleges and universities across the country accept certain minority applicants (students of East Asian descent excluded) based on lower standards than other applicants. That means the schools end up rejecting students of the “wrong” race with higher scores and grades. The name for this practice is racial preferences. Affirmative action is just a euphemism.

Students either know or suspect this sort of thing exists. What they don’t know or suspect is schools might pull a bait-and-switch. For example, the University of Connecticut told Pamela Swanigan, a biracial student accepted into a doctorate program, that she’d received the prestigious, merit-based Vice Provost’s Award for Excellence scholarship for being the top applicant.

Two years later, Swanigan considered getting an off-campus job. When she tried to confirm she’d be allow to do this and still receive the money, she found out she’d been receiving the Multicultural Scholars Program. Swanigan also learned that the Vice Provost’s Award for Excellence hadn’t existed when the school said she’d won it. Although the school said she could work off-campus and continue receiving the Vice Provost’s award, she could not do so under the less-prestigious, “increasing diversity” scholarship.

The school not only lied to Swanigan, it routed her into a race-based scholarship without giving her the opportunity to say yea or nay. Swanigan sued the school, challenging the use of race-based awards. The Center for Individuals Rights (CIR) represents her.

“This is about more than one applicant’s experience at UConn,” said Terence Pell, president of CIR. “Many top universities offer diversity scholarships which are awarded on the basis of race. While the Supreme Court has said that race may be a plus factor in admissions decisions, it has never said race can be the basis for scholarship awards once an applicant has been admitted. A scholarship awarded on the basis of race inevitably stigmatizes talented minority applicants, who come to be recognized for their race rather than their considerable academic achievements.”

As if racial preferences weren’t bad enough, the school withheld its intent to label Swanigan to pursue its own ends.

“My goal is to ensure that students are treated as individuals regardless of race and regardless of other efforts to promote racial diversity,” she said. “I wanted — and still want — to compete on the basis of my academic abilities just like any other student.”

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