Student organizers pass USG bill calling for $240-per-student equity fee


Amy Nankin | Senior Staff Photographer

Les Griots Violets, a coalition of students, organizing around issues concerning Black students at Tulane, authored the equity fee legislation passed by USG.

Staff Report

Tonight, a resolution to establish an equity fee at Tulane University was passed by the Undergraduate Student Government. 

The resolution, which passed 24-6 with one abstention, calls for a fee that would increase tuition by $240 per student to help fund areas on campus that are dedicated to supporting Black and other marginalized students. 

The bill was authored by Les Griots Violets, a coalition of students organizing around issues concerning Black students at Tulane. Members of the coalition include graduate students Abi Mbaye and Kamiya Stewart as well as sophomores Paige Magee, Raven Ancar, Tabita Gnagniko and USG Senator Deja Wells.

“[Anti-Blackness] is the denying of Black people the right to exist,” Mbaye said. “We are currently sitting on land stolen from indigenous people cultivated by Black people. We have been here 400 years ago, we were here in 1968, we were here in 2015 in the Call for Unity and we are here now. Again. Fighting for the same rights in the same issues. That’s more than racism, that’s anti-Blackness.”

The fee would be split among various departments and offices: 24% would go to the Closing the Gap Fund, 22% to the Carolyn Barber-Pierre Center for Intercultural Life, 21% to the Equity Endowment Fund, 16% to the Center for Academic Equity, 6% to the Goldman Center for Student Accessibility, 4% to the Office of Gender & Sexual Diversity, 3% to the Chief Diversity Officer budget, 3% to the Office of Multicultural Affairs and 1% to the Medical School Office of Multicultural Affairs. 

The legislation gives several examples of ways offices could use these funds, including offering fellowships and grants for tuition and study abroad at the Center for Academic Equity as well as providing increased pay for Community Engagement Advocates. 

The $240 fee was based on the current fees in place for undergraduate students such as those that help fund the Reily Recreation Center and the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. The resolution also calls for the creation of an Equity Council comprised of 10 members to oversee the logistics of allocating the funds. 

“We recognize that supporting diverse students is important. We will study this resolution and its potential impact on our student body,” Mike Strecker, Tulane executive director of public relations, said. 

In his statement, Strecker pointed to university-wide diversity efforts including establishing and funding the Center for Academic Equity; expanding the Community Engagement Advocates program; providing additional faculty mentors; expanding space, programming and staffing levels for the Carolyn Barber-Pierre Center for Intercultural Life and hiring a new Chief Diversity Officer. 

“While we have much, much more work to do, we are seeing progress,” Strecker said. 

The legislation states that preliminary findings from an unofficial survey of Black students by Stewart found that 94% of those surveyed do not believe Black students feel like they belong at Tulane and 58% of those students would transfer from Tulane if they had the opportunity. 

Members of the Senate asked the authors questions about the legislation in front of a large crowd of students who attended the meeting to show support for the passage of the legislation. During the student forum at the beginning of the night, students in the audience were given the chance to speak.

“I think that this legislation is critical because we have so much money in this school, and none of it gets touched by the student organizations that are marginalized here on campus and represent marginalized students,” senior Juju Worku said. “… There are some Black women who tirelessly organized and researched and put their hearts into writing a piece of legislation that attempts to rectify the historical wrongs of this university built on the backs of enslaved Black people.”

After a motion to table the voting of the legislation to the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Committee, the Student Life Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee, members of the crowd protested the delaying of the bill. Following the uproar, the legislation was voted on and passed. 

“I’m really glad that students who are marginalized were able to utilize USG to pass this extremely important piece of legislation,” USG president Joseph Sotile said. “The work obviously doesn’t stop here, and I am looking forward to working with the women who presented tonight to make sure that these departments and organizations get the funding that they need to operate at their fullest potential.”

The authors said that the leadership at Tulane has attempted to increase the amount of equity and diversity of the student body, yet there is a lack of funding to support the growing population of diverse students they aim to accept. 

“Thank you, thank you all so much for being on the right side of history and starting the revolution with us,” Mbaye told the crowd.

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