University of Wisconsin student-athletes released a second demand requesting the athletic department create a scholarship fund to address racial inequities in student representation on campus.
Former and current UW student-athletes publicized a second demand to create a $2 million scholarship fund for students of color August 4. They directed the demand towards the UW Athletic Department and UW Administration over social media.
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“The idea behind the creation of a fund is to rapidly increase the numbers of diverse student enrollment, while removing the barriers of entry for students of color who are qualifiers through admissions but lack financial support,” the demand stated.
The fund would help students of color who could otherwise not afford to attend UW pay for books, housing, fees and tuition, according to the demand. This demand follows the acceptance of the student-athletes’ call to change the university’s white ‘W’ crest to black on all athletic uniforms.
Samad Qawi, recent UW graduate and former forward for the Men’s Basketball team, said in a statement to The Badger Herald that numerous student-athletes joined forces to draft the second demand, hoping to keeptheir momentum from the first demand and create positive change.
“We wanted to continue to progress our goal of change and we believed this will continue to have an impact on campus,” Qawi said. “We are working one day at a time and for now we are just working to figure out our next step, which is getting this fund approved from Athletics and the school.”
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In a written statement to The Badger Herald, UW Athletics responded to the request made by the student-athletes. Senior Associate Athletic Director Justin Doherty said diversifying the staff and student population at UW-Madison is a stated objective of Chancellor Rebecca Blank, and UW Athletics supports those efforts.
Doherty said UW Athletics is currently communicating with the student-athletes about the demand. Additionally, the department is working with the UW Divison of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement on the scholarship fund request that would assist in the diversification of the UW-Madison student population, Doherty said.
“We look forward to continuing to engage with student-athletes in productive conversation around issues that are important to all of us,” Doherty said in the statement.
Brevin Pritzl, UW graduate student and guard for the Men’s Basketball team, was among the student-athletes who shared the demand on social media. In a statement to The Badger Herald, Pritzl said the scholarship is a necessary step because financial challenges prevent many students of color from coming to campus, and Black students make up less than 3% of the UW student body.
Pritzl believes UW still has a way to go to create tangible change on campus, and he said getting UW to listen to Black, Indigenous and people of color is still a “work in progress.”
“I think the change [to the black ‘W’ crest] was a great start because it was the school acknowledging systemic racism and the trials our friends face because of skin color,” Pritzl said. “If the school doesn’t follow up and create a better environment then it is only for show … The campus environment has a unique ability to create change and I hope that we continue to work to make UW a better place for all people.”
The demand requests the scholarship fund help a minimum of 40 Black students per year with the capacity to help at least 200 potential students in the next five years. Additionally, the demand states UW will have two years to establish the fund given the financial impact of COVID-19.
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Qawi hopes student-athletes will continue to push for change and work with BIPOC students. While Qawi recognized the platform student-athletes have, he believes the whole student body has a role in producing change on campus.
“I believe student-athletes do have a platform, but I believe that everyone has a platform,” Qawi said. “These past few months have given us the opportunity to build our support. It is not just student-athletes that are demanding change on this campus, it’s the WBSU, SIC and the list goes on, but at the end of the day we all have the same end goal.”