Students Demand Free College Tuition to Make Up for Slavery

University of Wisconsin minority group insists this is what's due them — but there's more

Given this nation’s history of slavery, black students should be offered free tuition and housing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison — because their ancestors weren’t able to receive education as slaves, a student government group insisted this week.

The Associated Students of Madison (ASM) also said that students from suburban high schools are overrepresented at the college, fostering “white supremacy,” according to an Associated Press report. The student group further stated that the consideration of ACT and SAT scores in applications restricts opportunities for poorer applicants.

“Slavery was a blight on our history, and many suffered, but haven’t we all suffered in some way, even if to a lesser degree, in our past?” said a high school senior.

“The university’s rhetoric suggests that it is committed to diversity and inclusion, so this legislation compels the university to move towards action — which is imperative,” the resolution’s author, ASM Student Council Rep Tyriek Mack said in a statement. “If no one challenges the university’s empty promises, then the racial composition will remain stagnant.”

One Boston-area high school senior pondered his own future next year on campus. “Honestly, it makes you think,” he told LifeZette. “I haven’t chosen my school yet, but all my friends and I Google the news at schools we’re applying to, to find out if they have riots, marches, or protests. Most of them do, whether over President Trump or race issues or ‘white privilege.’”

The resolution at Wisconsin demands free access to the university for all blacks — including former inmates, said the AP. That would save a black resident undergraduate student about $20,000 a year, said Mack.

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“Slavery was a blight on our history, and many suffered, but haven’t we all suffered some way, even if to a lesser degree, in our past?” said the high school senior from the Boston area, expressing wonderment at the activities in Wisconsin. “The Irish weren’t treated well as immigrants — they lived in slums. I am Irish. What is that worth — maybe $1,000? I would never think of such a thing. My job is to bring honor to my heritage — not to ask for a handout.”

The resolution also calls for University of Wisconsin to “use 10 percent of donations to bolster financial aid and study the feasibility of test-optional and geographically weighted admissions,” noted the AP in its report.

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The language mirrors demands that the Black Liberation Collective, a national network of black youth, has made nationwide. Their demands, as listed on their website, are the following:

1.) WE DEMAND at the minimum [that] Black students and Black faculty to be reflected by the national percentage of Black folk in the country.
2.) WE DEMAND free tuition for Black and indigenous students.
3.) WE DEMAND a divestment from prisons and an investment in communities.

The group’s principle statement reads, in part:

“Anti-Black racism is woven in the fabric of our global society. It is an interlocking paradigm of institutions, attitudes, practices and behaviors that work to dehumanize and oppress Black people in order to benefit non-Black people, and specifically, to benefit and maintain white supremacy. When social systems are racialized by white supremacy, whiteness becomes the default of humanity and Blackness is stripped of its humanity, becoming a commodity, becoming disposable.”

It continued, “Anti-blackness then is the depreciation of black humanity, denial of black pain, and the obstruction of black agency, in a perpetual process of dehumanization.”

Black students currently make up about two percent of the study body at the University of Wisconsin/Madison.

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University spokeswoman Meredith McGlone noted the proportion of “students of color” has grown from 11 percent to 15 percent over the last decade, multiple outlets reported. She said that while the school supports the spirit of the resolution, it’s not clear whether the methods it proposes are legal — or the best way to accomplish these goals.

Also, a recent $10 million donation will be invested in expanding the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, which supports minorities, McGlone said.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank has also proposed giving first-generation transfers from two-year schools free tuition for a year, contingent on funding in the upcoming state budget, reported AP.

“I wouldn’t appreciate if the school offered me free tuition just because I’m a minority,” said one university student.

ACT and SAT scores are not the only factor in admissions to the University in Madison, of course — but their inclusion is required under regent policy, McGlone said.

The university has, in fact, been listening to students of color — in August, they proposed building a black cultural center, expanding ethnic studies courses and diversity training for faculty and staff, and beginning racial discussions on campus, as the AP and others reported.

Chinese graduate student Yuhong Zhu said the resolution is awkward and he’d rather see more scholarships than a blanket offer of free access. “I wouldn’t appreciate if the school offered me free tuition just because I’m a minority,” he told AP. “We should at least have to work hard for it.”

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