SGA passes resolution to support reparations for all black students

Jamie Williams

The Student Government Association passed resolutions to support reparations for black students, causing varied response from senators and students.

Resolution to Support Reparations 

The resolution aims to send a message to the university that it should acknowledge slavery is “a debt that will never be paid.” The resolution also called for a special task force to be established by WKU to research test-optional admissions and geographically-weighted admissions and for all black people to have full and free access to WKU, including free tuition.

“This is something that I think is more importantly about sending a clear message than it is about actually trying to strive for the institution to actually give out free tuition to everybody,” said one author of the bill, Senator Brian Anderson.

The other author of the bill, Senator Andrea Ambam, said universities like to claim diversity without acknowledging the negative effects of slavery and segregation on black students. Ambam said past racial disparity has evolved into economic disparity in today’s society, making it difficult for black youth to attend college.

“If you really care about diversity, if you really care about inclusion, if you really care about making this campus safe and accessible to everybody, having the student government’s support of reparation for black students would be amazing,” Ambam said.

Several senators disagreed with the bill, saying free tuition for black students would still have to be paid by others — whether by fees on other students or by taxes paid to the government.

“It will disadvantage other people from getting the same education,” Senator William Hurst said. “I am not discounting that there is an obvious disadvantage to African-American students, but this resolution would discriminate against other populations.”

Senator Lily Nellans said the propositions of the resolution might feel unfair, but in reality it would just give black students the same benefits that white students have had historically.

“A lot of times equality can feel like oppression for those who are losing their advantage, but that’s not a reason we shouldn’t fight for equality,” Nellans said.

After much debate, the resolution ultimately passed 19-10-1.

Ambam told a Herald reporter Wednesday she and Anderson recognized the resolution put forth “a lofty request,” referring to its call for all black students to receive free tuition, but she believes it is important to start the conversation.

“I have no doubt that it started up conversation already,” Ambam said. “To me, that’s the first step.”

Regardless of the administration’s response to the resolution, Ambam said she plans to continue trying to encourage conversation around the issue.

“The point of a resolution like this is basically to make a huge statement saying that the Student Government Association recognizes the impact that slavery has had on black people today and that changes need to be made,” Ambam said.

One student, Carter Gross, commented on the Herald’s article about the resolution posted on Facebook and said he wonders if the SGA will consider giving free tuition to Native American students to compensate for settlers pushing them off their land, or to Asian Americans to compensate for the racism they have suffered in America, or if “this is just virtue signaling at the expense of other students to make the SGA feel good about themselves.”

Student Rachel West replied to Gross’s comment and said she believes the resolution’s proposition is a good thing.

“This is the first step for change for many communities,” West commented. “Do not speak on behalf of them. Sometimes it takes one brave soul to step forward so that others will follow.”

Several students and others took to social media to react to the resolution:

 Resolution to Support Parking Ticket Forgiveness

The SGA also passed a resolution that would allow students to pay for the $10 late fee incurred on parking tickets that are unpaid after seven days by donating items to the on-campus food pantry. The authors of the resolution hope this system can be expanded to whole tickets in the future, though Parking and Transportation Services does not support that idea at this time.

This resolution passed unanimously with 31 votes.

Resolution to Support International Graduate Tuition Scholarships

Finally, the SGA passed a resolution to support matching international graduate student scholarships to the amount of credit hours their degree requires.

Currently, these students receive scholarship funds for up to 36 hours of their degree program, but approximately one in four graduate degree programs at WKU require more than 36 hours to complete. Students in these programs have to bear a greater financial burden, and are often unable to work off-campus or apply for other scholarships to cover their tuition due to their international status.

The resolution recommends scholarships given by credit hour match the degree length of the student instead of capping at 36 hours.

The resolution passed 30-1-0.

The last SGA meeting of the semester will be Tuesday, April 25 at 5:00 p.m. in Downing Student Union. 

Reporter Jamie Williams can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]