Embrace the complexities of reparations resolution

Letter to the Editor:

When I read about the recent resolution passed by the WKU Student Government Association, 6-17-S Resolution to Support Reparations, this is all I could think, “Shoot, the comments section is about to go boom!”

It’s well known that a similar resolution passed by Associated Students of Madison at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, which 6-17-S was based on, led to a highly politicized debate. My understanding is that the focus quickly shifted from changes that could be made to increase the number of African-Americans attending Wisconsin to a debate about whether students at the school had critical thinking abilities grounded in reality.

With so many people now watching WKU, I want to ask everyone on campus to enjoy this conversation, don’t let outrage over the resolution distract from the issue and don’t let the issue’s importance scare you away either. If anyone doubts whether this discussion is important, I have only this response: This issue clearly matters to students (of all colors) on WKU’s campus and, above all other factors, that makes it worth having.

Here are some ground rules to get started: 1) Take off the punching gloves, and give yourself permission to say whatever you think (with the following caveats and little respect). 2) Assume everyone has the best intentions entering the conversation. 3) Be clear about whether what you’re discussing relates to WKU in particular, the national-level, or something else. All are good, but being as specific as possible reduces the odds of miscommunication.

4) If someone says something that offends you or seems ridiculous, swallow your urge to teach the other person a lesson and ask them to tell you why they believe their statement will help resolve the issue. 5) Agree to disagree. You don’t have to resolve your differences, but you should probably promise beforehand to buy each other milkshakes at Cookout. It’d be a good way of saying thanks for the conversation…and you may not feel like making the promise afterwards.

Because this conversation can also be awkward to start. Here are some ice-breaking questions to help take the plunge: What are the causes of the educational achievement gap (in being admitted and graduating) for students at WKU? How could paying reparations in the form of free tuition benefit African-American students? WKU students in general? How could reparations in the form of free tuition hurt African-American students? WKU students in general?

What other tools, incentives, programs, etc. might do a better job of reducing the educational achievement gap in Kentucky? How would these changes be funded? Is the educational achievement gap a more important issue than other areas that receive funding at WKU or in the state? WKU and Bowling Green have made a habit of shining in the limelight.

I’ve enjoyed watching a sinkhole at the Corvette Museum turn into an increase in museum attendance, or, seeing Kellyanne Conway’s misuse of Bowling Green’s experience with terrorists turn into a giant inside joke. Keep stepping up WKU–this conversation can also be turned into something productive and enjoyable.

Letter submitted by Jeff Walker