UCI student gov demands scholarships for Syrian refugees

The Student Senate at the University of California, Irvine passed a resolution recommending that the university give preference to displaced Syrian students.

Refined Right reports that the Student Senate passed a resolution Tuesday recommending that the university offer reserved spots and scholarships for displaced Syrian refugees looking to attend the university. Details regarding the cost of the preferential treatment would be released at the end of each academic year.

The resolution, called R52-12, was introduced by student senator Zeina Mousa, passed unanimously, and is currently awaiting approval from the Senate Advocacy Committee, which would then pass it along to the administration.

“Syrians face an ‘academic emergency’ due to a breakdown of higher education within their country, resulting from frequent attacks on university campuses, destroyed facilities, closed campuses, and dangerous roads leading to campuses,” the resolution states, asserting that “the maintenance of a population of educated students and the prevention of a ‘lost generation’ is necessary for the post-conflict development of Syria.”

The Syria Scholarships program, led by the Institute for International Education, already has several colleges participating in the program, including the Illinois Institute of Technology, Bryn Mawr College, Michigan State University, and the University of Southern California.

[RELATED: Student gov wants USC to take in Syrian refugees]

The program offers up to $50,000 to students of Syrian citizenship who have been displaced as a result of the ongoing civil war. Participating students must speak English and “have clear academic, professional, and personal goals,” as well as “demonstrate civic engagement and the desire to help rebuild their home country.”

According to the resolution, between 90,000 and 110,000 displaced Syrian students would qualify for enrollment at UCI, which admits around 30,000 students per year.

The resolution does not stipulate a specific level of funding that it would like UCI to provide for the initiative, but calls on the Office of the Provost to settle on a figure by the end of the school year.

“Associated Students of the University of California Irvine advocates for the University of California, Irvine to join the IIE’s Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis to commit to offering increased academic seats and funding to students displaced by conflict, notably Syrian students, in the form of partial or full scholarships, by no later than the end of the 2016-17 academic year,” the document says, urging the Office of the Provost to “release a statement detailing the funding for reserved scholarships and spaces that it will provide to educationally displaced students, including Syrians, by no later than the end of the 2016-2017 Academic Year.”

Not everyone is pleased with the resolution, however. The UC Irvine College Republicans vehemently denounced the resolution in a Facebook post, blasting it as a financially irresponsible sop to political correctness.

“We cannot allow political correctness to overshadow reality,” the statement notes. “While it would be ideal that our system allows us to help all those in want, such is not possible if a fair, merit-based, financially stable system is to be upheld.”

[RELATED: USC student gov rejects Syrian refugee resolution, citing political difficulties]

“I have no problem with Syrian refugees receiving education. They have been through incredible hardship,” CR President Ariana Rowlands told Campus Reform. “I have a problem with a closed student government politically and artificially endorsing policy measures that limit the ability of every prospective UC Irvine student to attain one of a finite amount of seats at this university by favoring non-American over American students.”

Observing that UCI is a public institution, she argued that “solving problems close to home should be our primary, not auxiliary, option,” saying, “Taking seats and scholarships away from deserving and wanting American citizens to give them to refugees is just political pandering at the expense of citizens already here—further requiring them to look to government for a handout, in turn furthering government's power.”

Campus Reform reached out to Tracy La, President of ASUCI, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AutumnDawnPrice