“My grandmother is black”: Red-haired student uses racial quota to enter university in Bahia
By Marques Travae
Here we go again. Yet another case of affirmative action fraud has been exposed, this time at the Universidade Estadual do Sudoeste da Bahia (State University of Southwest Bahia) which is looking into case of a student with red hair and white skin student who managed to get into medical school by taking advantage of the quota system; to apply, he defined himself a pardo, meaning he is brown or of mixed race because his grandmother was black. After discovering his case, a complaint was filed against him by a black candidate who was denied a vacancy at the university.
The case was exposed after a black candidate learned of the student’s situation and filed a complaint. The black student had come in sixth place and didn’t attain a vacancy in the program which had only five places at the university. The student who filed the complaint, who did not want to reveal their name, noted that Silva had managed a vacancy and entered the program and believed it being unfair that a man with such an appearance should be able to take advantage of a system reserved for pretos and pardos. The student filing the complaint also identifies as pardo, having a black father and white mother.
Michelson Medonça da Silva, 38, is a redhead, having very pale, white skin. In 2019, he took the vestibular (college entrance exam) and made use of the affirmative action system because, according to him, he considers himself pardo because, according to him, his grandmother is black and he was the only redhead in his family. “The ethnic-racial issue is one of cultural identity, of how one sees himself in his community. For my part, there is nothing illegal, I did everything based on the edict [of the UESB entrance exam], I’ve already made this clear to the university. I have nothing to fear from that,” stated the student in a recent interview.
Da Silva is in the first semester of the medical school program.
The UESB entrance edict requires candidates to fill out a form during the enrollment process, but as it doesn’t require prospects to have face-to-face verification for confirmation, this loophole presents ample possiblity for fraud. It was precisely because of this and the numerous cases of racial fraude in reason years that another university, the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA), determined that “the verification is by the phenotypic character, it is not ancestry, because it is understood that, in the field of social relations in Brazil, the question of racism focused on phenotype is much stronger than racism based on origin or other elements, such as religion and culture”.
The student being investigated doesn’t interpret the selection process at UFBA in the same manner.
This form of student admission for those who wish to enter university programs through the racial quota system has been marred with controversy, not only in Bahia, but has come under scrutiny from universities in states such as Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais as well, with numerous clearly white people having entered medical programs through quotas. Althoguh black and brown presence on college campuses across Brazil has increased significantly in the past two decades, they are still vastly outnumbered in pretigious programs such as medicine.
After a number of cases made headlines, the Federal Univeristy of Minas Gerais, UFMG, adopted a policy of face-to-face analysis of self-declarations in the 2019 entrance exam. With the new criteria, candidates would have to face a judgment phase in which a bench of judges consider if the candidate’s self-declaration matches their appearance. That same year, UFBA (Federal University of Bahia), implemented the same verification process after a number of cases of racial fraud had been exposed.
Silva also stated that, before enrolling, he also called Uesb beforehand ascertain as to whether there would be any inquiries about his self-declaration. “They said it is a question of ethnicity, that no one is going to investigate any phenotypic issue.”
Regarding this latest case of a possible fraud, UESB issued a statement saying “an administrative proceeding is underway to investigate the case, in which the interested parties have already been heard and the complaint is under analysis by the Legal Department.”
The university, however, didn’t make deadline of the process clear and also didn’t announce that there was a possibility for potential students to be investigated via face to face meeting as is done at UFBA.
“Currently, the registration of those approved by the vacancy reservation system is done by self-declaration. Uesb has been discussing and moving towards improving the process, with the implementation of an evaluation committee to ensure the transparency and security of the candidates,” read a statement from the institution.
If this is indeed the case, and the university didn’t advise him of any physical judgment, Da Silva may actually be able to win this case. I have repeatedly maintained that the quota system in Brazil should have nothing to do with one’s ancestry. As racial mixture is so widespread in Brazil, probably 90% of citizens could probably claim some degree of African ancestry, even having white skin and blue eyes. It is one’s phyical appearance that subjects him or her to racial discrimination and not a grandmother or great grandmother that may have been black.
Uesb has been reserving vacancies based on race since 2008, through resolution 36 of the Higher Council for Education, Research and Extension (Consepe), which created the Affirmative Action Program, which included the Combined Vacancy Reserve System, with the addition of quotas. The university became aware of the Silva case in February 2019, shortly after the candidate’s entrance exam results became known.
Since then, of all the vacancies that have been made available for the university entrance exam at the three campuses (Vitória da Conquista, Jequié and Itapetinga), half are reserved for students coming out of the public school system and who declare themselves preto or pardo, for whom 70% of these vacancies are reserved.
Candidates from public schools not declaring themselves preto or pardo when applying to make up the remaining 30%. In addtion, there is one vacancy per course for indigenous people, persons living in quilombola communities and persons with disabilities.
For those entering university programs through affirmative action policies, the greatest requirement is made of those candidates seeking the additional quotas. Indigenous and quilombola candidates may only enter Uesb with an anthropological report or certificate from the National Indian Foundation and from the Cultural Foundation Palmares, which applies to cases of quilombolas. In the case of the disabled candidate, a medical report must also be presented.
But even such requirements have exempted the university from attempted fraud: in 2017, seven students (five in the medical program, one in law school and another in dentistry) were expelled from the institution due to fraud in the quota system reserved for quilombolas – who are descendants of enslaved blacks who still live in maroon society communities.
Recently, 12,000 applicants took the entrance exam at Uesb competing for the institution’s 1,186 vacancies.
With information from Revista Fórum and O Tempo