Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
Oregon State University gets $1 million to train ‘diverse’ agricultural workforce

Federal funds go to ‘multicultural scholars program’

Oregon State University will invest in the creation of a “diverse workforce” for agriculture with the assistance of over $1 million in federal taxpayer dollars.

OSU’s “Multicultural Scholars Program” received the money with the assistance of U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.

“One thing I’m hearing is the need for a more skilled and diverse workforce,” Senator Wyden, a Democrat, stated in the news release. He said the grant came after hearing from agricultural leaders in the state.

The multicultural scholars program will use the $250K grant “to provide scholarships to recruit, engage, retain, mentor, and train multicultural scholars who will earn STEM-focused baccalaureate degrees from OSU College of Agricultural Sciences.”

Scholarships are available only to students who participate in “Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences” or “Society for Advancing Chicanos and Native Americans in Science,” according to the university.

The National Needs Graduate and Postgraduate Fellowship program at OSU will get $262,000 “to provide relevant research and leadership training to outstanding PhD Fellows to address the national need for a highly trained, multicultural agricultural workforce that is exceptionally prepared for effective science communication,” according to the news release.

Another $500,000 will go “to assist Native American pre-college and college students attending OSU and Southwestern Oregon Community College.”

The publicly funded university declined to answer College Fix questions about how it will spend taxpayer dollars.

The Fix reached out to Associate Dean Ricardo Mata-Gonzalez of the college of agricultural sciences school for comment.

The Fix asked who qualified as a “multicultural” student, if there were any concerns about complying with Title VI (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race), and what the motivations for the multicultural program are. The Fix called Mata-Gonzalez and he said university policy required him to defer to media relations.

Spokesman Rob Odom replied on behalf of Mata-Gonzalez and said, “I’m sorry to let you know that we will not have any comment for your story.” He did not respond to a follow-up email on Jan 24. that asked for clarification on why the university would not be answering questions.

Mata-Gonzalez stated in the news release that his college aims to boost racial minority participation in agriculture and related fields to fill a shortage of skilled workers.

The dean stated the college aims “to bridge this gap” by “providing scholarships to recruit, engage, retain, mentor, and train multicultural scholars from underrepresented communities.”

MORE: Paramedic group scrubs no-whites-allowed scholarship after lawsuit

The graduates “will help develop the larger society in terms of equity, economics and respect for the environment,” the associate dean stated.

But a group that works against racial identity politics criticized the programming and said it is a “disservice” to all students.

“It is impossible to purposely favor an individual or group based on race without discriminating against others,” Color Us United Program Coordinator Mike Markham told The Fix via email.

Color Us United says it “condemn[s] giving any student or potential student any form of favorable treatment specifically based on race… [W]e encourage institutions to shun racial favoritism, discrimination, and segregation in all its forms.

The group called it “woefully inappropriate for any public or private institution to use taxpayer funds to employ such practices.”

One student in the OSU college of forestry criticized the initiative.

Madeleine Keating told The Fix via social media messaging she is “wary” about the programming.

“The plan seems like it will do many good things for so many people, and Native Americans as well as other cultures have so much valuable knowledge to offer,” Keating said. However, “I don’t see why we need to base it on race every time we want to improve opportunities for students.”

She also said it won’t do much for her as a female student who comes from a “working class family who has challenges too.”

MORE: Michigan State breaks ground on $38M multicultural ‘safe space’

IMAGE: Recep BG/Getty Images

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Please join the conversation about our stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, MeWe, Rumble, Gab, Minds and Gettr.

About the Author
College Fix contributor Emma Arns is a student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she is studying business and political science. She is involved with College Republicans and serves as secretary of her school's TPUSA chapter. She also writes and reports for Campus Reform.