SGA creates Jonesville scholarship fund

Jamie Williams

A new scholarship was created during the Student Government Association meeting Tuesday to memorialize Jonesville, a historical African American community that was located on the area of WKU’s current campus until the 1960s.

“We as students should try to give back, and try to honor Jonesville in some way,” Senator Chase Coffey, one author of the scholarship bill, said. “Before diversity and inclusion was important to the administration here, before it was important to the university as a whole, Jonesville made it a priority to make sure that diversity and inclusion was part of Western’s history.”

When Jonesville was founded by a group of freed slaves in the 1870s, the community occupied land now used for several WKU structures including Smith Stadium, Nick Denes Field and Downing Student Union. Jonesville was one of two predominantly African American communities in Bowling Green until the late 1960’s.

During this time period, WKU did not provide housing for African American students, and many members of the surrounding community refused to rent property to those students. Jonesville was one of the only places that accepted African Americans, making it easier for them to attend WKU.

In the late 1960’s, WKU utilized the Urban Development Renewal Project to buy Jonesville’s land, which included 64 homes and businesses, for under $200,000. The residents of the community were displaced with little compensation to allow WKU’s expansion.

There was some debate in the SGA as to whether the scholarship should only be open to African American students as a repayment for Jonesville’s condemnation or if it should include all minority students to represent how Jonesville accepted African American students when no one else did. Chair of Public Relations Alex Sergent supported changing the bill to include applicants of all minority groups.

Sergent said, “Is this about repaying that community or is it about extending that same hand toward all minorities that are currently struggling on campus?”

Senator Luke Edmunds believed that the scholarship should be open to all students in order to inform everyone about what happened to Jonesville.

“Let students be aware that this is something that all students up until today have been affected by,” Edmunds said. “Whether you are an African American student or not, you’re using the land that Jonesville once was.”

Senator Jody Dahmer emphasized that some descendants of Jonesville residents are within the Warren County school system, and restricting the scholarship to only African American students would give them a better chance to attend college.

“It would be much more beneficial keeping it to African American students [whose] ancestors were displaced from a community that was demolished to build sports stadiums,” Dahmer said.

The bill was passed in its original form: the Jonesville Memorial Scholarship will be open to first-year African American WKU students from the Warren County Public School system or the Bowling Green School system. The SGA allocated $750 for the scholarship, to be distributed among all recipients. The Center for Citizenship and Social Justice also donated $100 to the scholarship fund, bringing it to $850 total.

“Obviously, no amount of money that we could throw at it will invent a time machine so we could go back and convince the administration to properly compensate these people,” Senator Dillon McCormick said. “But it is, in a way, a kind of symbolic gesture to atone for the wrong that we did.”

The senate also approved a resolution to support the elimination of printed paper on WKU’s campuses by the year 2030. This reduction of paper usage would save the university money while also cutting down on waste and environmental harm.

Associate Justice Jacob McAndrews was also appointed to the judicial council after Amarah Reed stepped down from her position on the council.

The senate voted to cancel its meeting scheduled for next week due to final exams; therefore, the SGA will reconvene at the beginning of next semester.

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