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Hampton University has received significant backlash from its students and alumni after the school announced it would allow students impacted by the war in Ukraine to study at their campus for free. 

In March, the school announced that it would allow students studying in Ukraine and around the world who are impacted by the ongoing war to attend the Virginia-based HBCU in the summer for free.

The backlash on social media came swiftly as many people questioned why the University would help these international students while many students already on campus were struggling themselves. 

We have received criticism and we’ve received calls asking for further explanation,” said Margaret Martin the Hampton University Ukrainian Chair in an exclusive with NewsOne. “At the core of it, we are simply saying that we can help because we are an institution of higher education, we can help in that area.”

The idea to help these students came from Hampton University President Dr. William Harvey who has stepped up and offered similar assistance in situations like this before. Hampton offered Xavier University of Louisiana students a chance to study at Hampton for free when Hurricane Katrina caused serious damage to their campus. Years later, Students at the University of the Bahamas would get the same opportunity after Hurricane Dorian. 

“His thinking was that when Hampton has the ability to offer assistance and help to people in need we try to do that,” said Martin. “Hampton is in the business of education and service that’s been our legacy since our founding in 1868.” 

Many in the HBCU community were critical of the move by Hampton because students who don’t even go to the University were getting free access to resources on campus that many other students could have utilized. The University says that their students are their first concern and they encourage any student to ask for help. 

Martin said that none of the money allotted strictly for Hampton students will be touched for the Ukraine initiative. Hampton students have access to $30 million in annual endowed scholarship money and $73 million in federal funding. 

“Our students here at Hampton are first. They are our first concern, They are the center and the focus of what we do here,” stated Martin. “There is no project, there is no group of people that we would ever put before them or that we consider more important than they are.”

The conversation around this decision by Hampton officials has sparked a national conversation about how HBCUs should insert themselves into world issues. 

“It’s an act of kindness for people who have been displaced. Students who have had to flee the country on a moment’s notice and have either landed in their home countries or a country that is not home wishing to continue their educational pursuit,” said Martin. “We saw that as an opportunity to lend a helping hand and we hope and believe that our student body is coming to understand that and that our alumni base is coming to understand that.“

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