BRISTOL, R.I. -- A student group at Roger Williams University is offering a new scholarship for which only white students are eligible, in a move they say is designed to protest affirmative action.
The application for the $250 award requires an essay on "why you are proud of your white heritage" and a recent picture to "confirm whiteness."
"Evidence of bleaching will disqualify applicants," says the application, issued by the university's College Republicans.
Jason Mattera, 20, who is president of the College Republicans, said the group is parodying minority scholarships at Roger Williams and making a statement.
"We think that if you want to treat someone according to character and how well they achieve academically, then skin color shouldn't really be an option," he said. "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."
The group's move is one in a series of actions that have sparked debate, as well as anger.
The university administration temporarily froze the College Republicans' money in the fall during a fight over a series of articles published in its monthly newsletter.
The articles in the September issue accused homosexuals of squelching free speech by pushing for hate-crimes legislation and alleged that a well-known gay-rights group indoctrinates students into homosexual sex.
University president Roy Nirschel called the issue "pornographic in nature, puerile" and "mean-spirited" and said the university would "not condone publications that create a hostile environment for our students."
In the end, no action was taken against the Republicans.
The university has chosen to stay out of the scholarship debate. The university's provost said the scholarship is a student group's initiative and is not endorsed by Roger Williams.
Some have accused the College Republicans of being disingenuous in making a stand against minority scholarships, noting that Mattera himself is the recipient of a scholarship open only to a minority group.
Mattera, who is of Puerto Rican descent, readily acknowledges that he was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from the Hispanic College Fund.
He said he was given the money because of his academic achievement and plays down the role his ethnicity played in the funds being awarded.
Mattera also contends that his ethnic background only strengthens his position.
"No matter what my ethnicity is, I'm making a statement that scholarships should be given out based on merit and need," Mattera told The Providence Journal.
The group took out a full-page ad in last week's issue of the university's student newspaper to advertise the scholarship, which was for $50 until two donors came forward to add $100 each during the weekend, Mattera said.
The ad also publicized the visit on Wednesday of Reginald Jones, a critic of affirmative action.
He was invited, the Republicans said, in observance of Black History Month. A poster about his visit says "Black History Month is a ploy to spread socialism."
The topic of Jones's lecture Wednesday evening is "How the civil-rights movement destroyed the black community."
Mattera said he has received several scholarship applications. Jones will announce the recipient of the scholarship before his talk.