A False Headline About Free Tuition

Q: Is Western Kentucky University offering free tuition to black students because of slavery?

A: No. The school does not plan to adopt a resolution passed by the Student Government Association demanding “full and free access” for black students.

FULL QUESTION

Did Western Kentucky University vote to give blacks free tuition to repay for slavery?

FULL ANSWER

“University Will Give Black Students Free Tuition As Apology For Slavery” is an inaccurate headline that has circulated online for months.

Facebook users flagged a story with that header as potentially fabricated news after it was published on therightwingportal.com on Sept. 6. But the same headline and story appeared on the World News Circle website, or usarightwing.com, nearly two months prior to that.

The story, unlike the false headline, says that “the student government association at a University in Kentucky, have voted to recommend that the university makes tuition ‘free’ for all the black students attending the college.” That part is true.

In April, the Student Government Association at Western Kentucky University passed a “Resolution to Support Reparations” to “acknowledge that there is a debt that will never be paid” to the university’s black students because of slavery.

The resolution, which passed by a 19-10 vote, called for, among other things, all black people to have “full and free access” to attend the university.

Resolution 6-17-S, April 18: Be it resolved that the Student Government Association of Western Kentucky University support Reparations for Black Students at WKU. We call for a special task force be [sic] established by the University to assess the feasibility of test-optional admissions and geographically-weighted admissions. Admissions criteria at Western Kentucky are subject to policies put forth by the Board of Regents, and thus this task force should work with both internal and external stakeholders to develop its assessment.

We demand reparations for the systemic denial of access to high quality educational opportunities in the form of full and free access for all black people (including undocumented, currently and formerly incarcerated people) to Western Kentucky University.

But the resolution is not binding and has not been implemented. The university’s then-president, Gary A. Ransdell, issued a statement two days after the resolution passed saying that the school has no intention of making classes free for black students.

“We appreciate the Student Government Association’s interest in these issues, but it’s important to clarify that their resolution is not an official position taken by the University,” Ransdell’s statement said. “I have read the SGA resolution, and I understand that their intent was to spark a conversation, but the University will not adopt any such policy.”

Even the resolution’s co-authors, Andrea Ambam and Brian Anderson, told the university’s student newspaper that the measure was mostly a way to start a dialogue.

“While the resolution calls for free tuition for black students, we’re not expecting that to materialize anytime soon,” Anderson wrote in a letter to the College Heights Herald. What we do believe could come as a result of this legislation though, is a greater understanding from the university that more can be done for students that don’t benefit from systems that traditionally benefit white students like standardized testing for financial aid.”

Anderson added: “Our hope is that as a result of this resolution, power structures that have been upheld to privilege a select few can be changed for the greater benefit of all.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.

Sources

University Will Give Black Students Free Tuition As Apology For Slavery.” Therightwingportal.com. 6 Sep 2017.

World News Circle. “University Will Give Black Students Free Tuition As Apology For Slavery.” Usarightwing.com. 15 Jul 2017.

Western Kentucky University Student Government Association. Resolution 6-17-S, Resolution to Support Reparations. Introduced 11 Apr 2017, passed 18 Apr 2017.

Blackford, Linda. “WKU student leaders urge free tuition for black students as slavery reparations.” Lexington Herald-Leader. 20 Apr 2017.

Williams, Jamie. “SGA passes resolution to support reparations for all black students.” Collegiate Heights Herald. 18 Apr 2017.

Ransdell, Gary. “Statement from WKU President Gary A. Ransdell on the recent Student Government Association resolution.” WKU News. 20 Apr 2017.

Anderson, Brian. “SGA senators view reparations resolution as step for greater understanding.” Letter to the editor. College Heights Herald. 19 Apr 2017.

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