Monday, February 23, 2004

A conservative group at Texas A&M University has established a $10,000 essay contest for students who disagree with affirmative action.

The Young Conservatives of Texas are asking prospective writers to discuss “how you or a family member have overcome institutionalized discrimination and/or the stigma imposed by policies giving preference to particular racial and ethnic groups in college admissions, employment, and other competitive arenas.”

YCT established the contest in response to Texas A&M’s “‘Graduate Diversity Scholarships’ and new race-based hiring quotas in the College of Engineering,” said a statement released yesterday.

The group obtained an interoffice memo from the college stating that a minimum of one-third of all new hires must be “minority groups or women,” and that “faculty diversity is critical.”

The essay calls for writers to explain “ethical implications of such discriminatory policies, their effect on the pursuit of excellence, and their impact on our society’s ability to fulfill the promise of the original national motto, E pluribus unum.”

In mid-February, the College Republicans, a student group at Rhode Island-based Roger Williams University, established a $250 scholarship for students of “white heritage” meant as a parody to protest affirmative action.

“If you want to treat someone according to character and how well they achieve academically, then skin color shouldn’t really be an option,” said spokesman Jason Mattera, a student of Puerto Rican background who received $5,000 from a minority scholarship.

“Many people think that coming from a white background you’re automatically privileged, you’re automatically rich and your parents pay full tuition. That’s just not the case,” he said.

The essay contest at Texas A&M, meanwhile, is open to high school and university students in the state, with prizes of $5,000, $3,500 and $1,500. The three winning essays will be printed in the Austin Review and the Texas Education Review, the group says.

“We challenge Texas A&M and all other Texas universities to abandon racial preferences in awarding scholarships and admitting students,” said Matthew Maddox, YCT chairman.

YCT was established 24 years ago to promote conservative values among “regular, mainstream students” on the campus. It has chapters in 10 colleges and universities. Its Web site is (

Funds for the contest were raised by the YCT and the Texas Review Society, an Austin-based nonprofit group promoting “free markets and individual rights” in public policy, a statement said.

Austin Review editor James Logan said the essay competition is meant “for students who have experienced institutionalized discrimination” and “for minority students to discuss the stigmatizing effect of affirmative action programs that wrongly assume certain groups cannot succeed on their own merits.”

The young organizers of the contest say their idea is a rare one.

“Although college applications often ask students to discuss how they have overcome adversity, only a student intent on being rejected by college admissions boards would discuss how they have been negatively affected by racial preferences,” said Weston Balch, YCT co-chairman.

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