Black students should be offered free tuition and housing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison because blacks were legally barred from education during slavery and university remains out of reach for black students today, the student government said Wednesday.
The Associated Students of Madison said in a resolution that students from suburban high schools are overrepresented. The group said consideration of ACT and SAT scores in applications restricts opportunities for the poor and thus upholds “white supremacy.” Race relations have been a contentious issue at the Wisconsin’s flagship campus for months. The university has proposed some measures aimed at improving diversity.
“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.”
The resolution demands free access to the university for all black people, including former inmates. That means free tuition, free housing and no fees, Mack said. That would save a black resident undergraduate student about $20,000 a year.
The resolution goes on to call for the university to use 10 percent of donations to bolster financial aid and study the feasibility of test-optional and geographically weighted admissions.
The language mirrors demands that the Black Liberation Collective, a national network of black youth focused on higher education, has made to nearly 90 campuses across the country.
Madison Bevan, a sophomore from Los Angeles who identifies herself as black-white biracial, called free access for black students a good way to bolster their numbers on campus. She said one student in her dorm told her she was the first black person they’ve ever seen.
“There’s such a small number of (black) people on campus, it’s very easy to feel like you’re alone,” she said.