[Indian Country Today] Education reparation: UC tuition scholarships for Natives are just, overdue

Op-Ed on UCOP NAOP written by UCLA Professors Randall Akee, Paul Ong, Desi Small-Rodriguez and UC Berkeley Director of Native American Student Development Phenocia Bauerle.

The University of California system is one of the largest and most prestigious post-secondary educational institutions in the country. Its beginnings 170 years ago were as fraught as they were humble. The Morrill Act enabled the creation of land-grant colleges, which were resourced by the sale of federal lands. These lands were, in many cases, stewarded by tribes, and they ended up in the hands of the federal government sometimes by treaty and often through seizure. Although a critical driving force behind California’s continued economic and technological successes, UC has not been sufficiently accessible to the very people whose dispossession was core to its founding.

In a monumental move, the State of California is looking to correct historical injustice and promote greater inclusiveness of Native Americans, a group that to this day encounters numerous systemic barriers to post-secondary education. The UC Office of the President, under President Michael V. Drake, has established the Native American Opportunity Plan that will take effect in the fall of 2022. The tuition scholarship will cover in-state tuition and fees for American Indians and Alaska Natives California residents who are enrolled members of any federally-recognized Native American or Alaska Native tribe. This tuition scholarship will apply for all University of California undergraduate and graduate programs and at all campuses. Not only will the plan begin to address some of the education barriers that marginalize American Indian and Alaska Native people, it is also an acknowledgement that UC has benefited enormously from the sale of lands that were stolen through various means from Indigenous peoples and, still today, sits on parcels that rightfully belong to tribal nations and communities. While the plan does not address non-federally recognized tribes, there has been outreach and discussion with external entities to encourage the creation of a foundation that will fund California resident members of non-federally recognized tribes.

The plan is sure to draw the ire of those who would cry “reverse racism,” but unlike explicitly race-based affirmative action programs – which are important and necessary in their own rights – this plan is rooted in the recognition of tribal sovereignty. The plan is premised upon the political class – not the race – of tribal members, a distinct political class established by the Supreme Court.

With this Plan, UC greatly expands on other universities’ efforts to right historical wrongs. For example, Georgetown University – in light of the revelation that in 1838 the institution sold 271 people it had enslaved to keep the university afloat – announced that it would create an admissions preference for the descendants of those enslaved people. Additionally, the Montana University System has one of the longest-standing tuition waiver policies for American Indian students in the country since its adoption in 2008. However, the Montana’s program only applies to students eligible for need based aid.

Read the full article here: https://indiancountrytoday.com/opinion/education-reparation-uc-tuition-scholarships-for-natives-are-just-overdue