Reparations at UW-Madison: A Lesson On Real Diversity

February 20, 2017

By Tyler Brandt
Vice President, UW-Madison Young Americans for Liberty

On the morning of February 16th, 2017 Tyriek Mack and other ASM representatives introduced campus legislation calling for “test-optional admissions and reparations in the full and free access for all black people to attend UW-Madison”.

The legislation would effectively make tuition free for all black people, undocumented students, and formerly incarcerated students. The proposal cutely named, “Cognitive Dissonance” was introduced to actualize UW-Madison’s proclaimed commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Mack gives several explanations as to why this legislation is necessary. He cites evidence of black people being underrepresented at a mere 2 percent of the entire student population. He questions why Chancellor Blank and the university would hold diversity and inclusion as campus values while they do nothing to bring more black students to campus.

First of all, it is important to accept the fact that black people have been historically disadvantaged in America. I wish not to deny the harsh reality that many have had to face in this country. Mack is correct in that there is a problem with minorities having unequal access to quality education. While this is true, his policy would do little to solve the problem.

The problem of there not being enough black people at the university level is a direct result of the failure of K-12 education. This is apparent not only around the country but also on a local level such as in Milwaukee, where nearly 25,000 students attend 42 failing schools. MPS has continuously failed to provide quality education to its inner-city students despite having one of the highest spending per pupil in the state.

The achievement gap between black and white students at MPS is consistently among the highest in the country. The most recent statewide tests show us that only 7.5 percent of black kids at MPS are proficient in math. The data also shows that students aren’t improving as they get older, either – last year’s Report on Remedial Education revealed that 56 percent of MPS graduates who attend the UW System require math remediation. If the UW System has an inclusivity issue, it begins at MPS, which has a clear record of consistently underserving its students.

I think Mack along with many others share the common goal of providing better education to inner-city students. If we want to see promising results this must be targeted at the K-12 level. Free tuition at the university level is almost like fixing potholes by filling them with rainwater.

Not only is Mack’s proposal inadequate in addressing the education problem, it also rests on a sweeping claim based on skin color alone, neglecting any sort economic background. It is wholly irrational to suggest that only black people should be allowed free tuition. This is on its face absurd. It is giving unequal privileges to a population based only on their skin color. Legislation on skin color alone has no proper basis.

Why are we being led to believe that diversity based solely on skin color has some sort of educational benefit? Why are we not being taught that the true meaning of diversity is having multiple groups with divergent interests being allowed to freely express their beliefs?

Diversity is a crucial virtue, but it is rendered meaningless when only attributed to the color of one’s skin. If we are truly to judge men based on the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin, then it is our duty to publicly condemn policies which do just the opposite.