Friday, February 03, 2012


Two things:

1. I'm getting really tired of all the Komen stories/misinformation/snarkiness. And this reminds me why I vet charity groups very carefully before I give.

2. I'm irritated at a person in a group I belong to. This group, one of our activities, is that we give out scholarships to students. We have guidelines that we follow. We've been very pleased with past recipients - most have graduated with honors, and a number of them are still in the community, working in whatever field they earned their degree in.

Because of a quirk, this year we have two International students (Well, granted - one of them is in the process, if she has not already achieved it, of earning citizenship here). One person didn't like that and threw a right fit when the second International student was named. (The first one was a "continuing" scholarship - we re-award scholarships until a student graduates provided they keep a minimum 3.0 GPA and are making reasonable progress toward graduating).

It got kind of ugly. At one point (did I mention I'm Chair of the scholarship committee?) I was very tempted to get up, say, "If you can pick people better than the rest of us, then you may have MY place on the committee."

The thing is: there is NOWHERE in the guidelines that we are restricted to U.S. citizens only. We'd have to change the guidelines. And what this person was doing was trying to get us to revoke the scholarship from the most qualified applicant and award it to someone less-qualified simply based on membership in a particular group. Which would not be ethical given the situation.

But, because that person raised a stink and another person joined in, we called a vote: do we keep this recipient or reject her? (I was ready to resign if the vote was to reject - I think that would be very wrong). The vote, with two opposed, was to grant the scholarship.

So, I went to the group president later and said: if we're going to have this problem, we need to address it. If people genuinely have a problem with us awarding to International students, then we have to rewrite the guidelines. (I didn't like the idea, neither did she, but we agreed we had to put it forward to the group).

(I will note my mother's response to all this, when I told her, because it's also kind of my opinion: "If the American kids aren't earning high enough grades or doing enough outside stuff to be the top candidates, then they need to work harder.")

Also, I'll note we get probably a disproportionate number of International student applicants, because so many of the other sources of aid are closed off to them. (Also, I've met a large number of U.S. students with the attitude of "Meh, I'll get loans, I don't have to work for them, and if I can't pay them off when I graduate, let them come after me.")

So anyway: we researched it, brought the issue before the membership, and opened it up for discussion.

Several women pointed out what my mother said. And a couple did remark on the fact that International students have fewer choices.

And then the original agitator spoke up. Now, I tend to be a very literal-minded person, so I did not get what she was getting at at first, using very veiled language. But then, as she kept speaking, I realized what she was saying:

"What if one of our scholarship recipients goes home and becomes a terrorist?"

Okay, that insulted me on three levels:

1. The two "International" students we have, one is from South America, one is from Vietnam. They've been recommended by several professors and community leaders. They hold down jobs in the community. While I am sure some "real" terrorists slipped by the notice of many, so do many American citizens who commit horrible crimes - and for that matter, there are homegrown terrorists. Neither of these kids in question seem to show any kind of ill-will to the U.S. The student from South America, in fact, is working to become a citizen, because, as she said, she was so impressed with the freedom and opportunity we have here and she wants to stay here and build a life.

2. Both of the students are Christians, they noted that in their cover letters. One had a church leader write a letter for her. While I'm aware that some Christians can become violent....most of the violent terrorists we've seen in recent years are not Christian. (Not that their faiths entered any into our decision, other than the fact that the one letter emphasized the conscientiousness and ethics of the student).

3. The thing that made me angriest? What I "heard" her saying was, "I don't think the scholarship committee is discerning enough or smart enough to recognize someone who might later present a problem and dishonor us." That was the point where I really wanted to say, "Okay, fine, lady. You get my slot on the committee; I'm DONE." Of course, I wouldn't really want to do that - as a friend of mine (not in this group) I vented to noted: "You really don't want someone like HER doing the picking, do you?" (The person in question is an attention-hound, someone who's never worked a day in their life, and someone who once berated ME for not doing more volunteer work during the day - even though she knows I teach full time. "Can't you just cancel class occasionally?" was her response. Um, no, not if I want to keep my tenure, I can't.)

I kind of abstained from discussion because at that point I was so nettled that I figured nothing I could say would be helpful.

Finally, we reached a compromise: for every scholarship slot, the committee will have a "top 3" choices which the membership will then vote on. While this will slow things down considerably and mean more work - it also means the people who think we aren't working hard or being careful will see what an effort it is to pick and choose. I'm all for making them read all 15 or however many applications that we need to wade through to pick the applicants.

The only thing is? I suspect in some ways this will spike the chances of International students a little. I know since that one person got so nasty about it I'd think twice, unless the International student was clearly head and shoulders above all the U.S. students. If it's a matter of one activity or .2 of a GPA, forget it - I'll push forward the American kid. Not fair and not right, maybe, but people who are nasty and unpleasant get their way in this world, and I'm too damn tired of fighting and being yelled at.

No good deed goes unpunished. And volunteers are usually thanked with criticism. That's just how life is.

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