Rodriguez Scholars excel

Roman Goldstein

I would like to take issue with Alex Fak’s Nov. 1 column. I am absolutely in favor of dialogue on the best way to make the campus more diverse and inclusive. Yet, Fak was not justified in his negative portrayal of the Annika Rodriguez Scholars Program (ARSP). As an Annika Rodriguez Scholar, I would like to dispel misperceptions about the program in an effort to refute Fak’s claims.

The Rodriguez Scholar Program does not pigeonhole me. Yes, being a scholar has certain obligations, such as attendance at mandatory events. Yes, the program is designed to promote closeness between scholars. But our lives extend far beyond the program. Scholars take part in several different activities: we count in our ranks an RA, the president of the campus chapter of Amnesty International, interns in Undergraduate Admissions, a KWUR DJ, a past Sophomore Class President, fraternity members, and more. ARSP is significant in my life, but I, like my fellow scholars, find plenty to do outside of the program.

Furthermore, it is precisely the group which Fak asserts keeps me from interacting with the campus at-large that enables me to be involved at Washington University. The scholars, plus a few other very close friends, are my family in St. Louis. My biological family, which I miss tremendously, is 800 miles away. Having a surrogate family provides the confidence to be active on campus.

We do have an exclusive seminar class, AmCS 248, Latino Identity in the United States. However, all scholarships have exclusive events, including the Danforth, Engineering, and Arts and Sciences Honorary Scholarships. And how about Hillel’s Community Development Fellows? To qualify, you must be Jewish, obviously; submit an application; and be interviewed. As a CDF, you can get academic credit spending about two hours a week developing programming for Jewish freshmen. Eerily similar to ARSP and the seminar, isn’t it? Yet no one complains about CDFs. I am tempted to attribute this to racism, but I prefer not to believe that racism is so prevalent in this liberal and enlightened campus.

Far from being insulted, the university honors me with the designation “Annika Rodriguez Scholar.” I am not ashamed to bear Annika’s legacy. I am tired of having my success ascribed to my ethnicity. Of all the factors I could name that contribute to my success, such as intelligence, supportive parents, and ambition, why does Fak harp on my ethnicity as the reason I am where I am? I invite Fak and Student Life to thoroughly investigate the Scholars’ credentials. After doing so, I am confident that there will be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the Rodriguez Scholars are deserving of an academic scholarship. Stop being jealous and putting others down. It only fosters resentment and anger.

Let me explain how many minorities view their supposed “privileged” status in the United States. One argument against ethnic-based scholarships is that they are unfair to white students, that they give minorities privilege. Fair enough. Now, what do minorities see when they look at medical and law school entrance statistics, standardized tests, Fortune 500 CEOs, and politicians in this country? White privilege.

Unwritten, but ever-present, in Fak’s column is an attack on affirmative action. A debate of the merits of this policy is beyond the scope of this column. However, abandonment of this practice will be seen by minorities as abandonment of the quest for racial equality, concedes Nathan Glazer, a staunch opponent of affirmative action, in The Wall Street Journal. Washington University cannot afford to appear like it is insensitive to racial concerns.

Being selected as a scholar is the primary reason I came to WU. It is not only about money. It is about my hard work and accomplishments being recognized. Funding ethnic-based scholarships is vital to the university’s effort to attract qualified minority students.

They provide a community of students that make minority students comfortable. It is encouraging to know that others respect and value your culture and accomplishments. The monetary investment the university makes in the Ervin and Rodriguez Scholars Programs and cultural groups is proof of their commitment to making the campus diverse, welcoming to minorities, and cognizant of minority achievement. Many organizations have lofty claims of diversity, but WU puts its money where its mouth is.

Leave a Reply