The University of Saskatchewan turned down a donation of $500,000 because the donor wanted the funds used to support scholarships for “non-aboriginal” students, reports the National Post.
The university states a race-based scholarship would violate both university policies and human rights legislation.
I’ve always been bothered by race-based scholarships because they do not directly target the factors that disadvantage students.
Yes, students of aboriginal backgrounds are more likely to be social-economically disadvantaged. Yes, the history of how we treated (and continue to treat in some cases) aboriginals has resulted in a lot of the disadvantages that aboriginal students face.
That said, the problem is not their race and I’ve always seen scholarships that use race as a determining factor leaving the impression that race may be the problem.
Bursaries should be targeted to the actual disadvantages they are supposed to address. I find it perfectly acceptable to have bursaries designed to assist students moving from a rural reserve into a university town. There are plenty of bursaries that have geographic restrictions. Having funds with the criteria of being a descendant of someone who was put in residential schools is acceptable. The trauma of those schools continues to be passed down generation by generation. It is actually targeting a real problem. A scholarship based purely on need would be even better.
Unless race is the problem then why do we use it as a criteria to find a solution? Simple: because it makes things easy. Why go further than the skin layer of the problem?
(Hattip: Dale Kirby)