SGA passes resolution to support reparations for all black students
Apr 18, 2017
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.