Hampton University is receiving significant backlash on social media after the school announced it would allow students impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to study at its campus tuition-free.
Last week the school announced that it would allow students studying in Ukraine who were affected by the ongoing war to attend the Virginia-based HBCU in the summer at no cost.
According to University President Dr. William R. Harvey, 50 to 100 students who are currently exposed to the dangers in Ukraine will be able to attend Hampton free of charge. The announcement came as the student debt crisis has disproportionately affected Black college students, including and especially those attending HBCUs.
“The collective Hampton University faculty, staff, and students are heart-broken because the war-torn country of Ukraine must deal with atrocities like the bombing of maternity wards, hospitals, and other civilian areas,” said Harvey in a statement last week. “I think this partnership is something that can be beneficial to a great number of students and families. My entire career has been focused on helping people to achieve and meet their goals.”
However, since the announcement, the gesture has been met with online backlash from both current and former Hampton students. The collective message has been one wondering where that offer was for Black students facing their own hardships who either attend, attended or are looking to attend Hampton University.
One Hampton alum on Twitter even wrote that people should call Dr. Harvey and demand that the university take the offer to these students in Ukraine soff the table: “Every person who cares about the safety of black students at #hamptonuniversity need to call Dr. Harvey’s office and demand they rescind this offer immediately or the alumni will not give back or attend homecoming this year.”
Others in the comments were quick to give thoughts about the school’s decision and voiced displeasure with where the school was choosing to allocate funds as many alumni and students on campus alike struggle with student debt and other related costs.
Others on social media said that it wasn’t the responsibility of the school to help students in Ukraine, especially not in the wake of news of poor treatment of Africans in the Eastern European country.
Hampton did something similar to this back in 2019 by opening its doors for free to students in the Bahamas who were impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
The conversation around Dr. Harvey and Hampton officials doing what they probably thought was a nice gesture has sparked a national conversation about how HBCUs should allocate resources in times of crisis and how these universities should prioritize the needs of their students.
A growing number of HBCUs have been eliminating student debt in the last year by using a combination of federal funds and private donations to help reshape the college experience. The damage caused by the student debt crisis is particularly worse for Black students who attend HBCUs because of the increased financial need to fund their educational experience due to the racial wealth gap and racist financial practices that have thwarted Black people since this country’s inception.