By Black students, for Black students: Black Student Union launches scholarship

The group is depending on donations and hopes to raise $20,000 to be doled out to about 40 Black students.

Black+Student+Union+president+Samiat+Ajibola+poses+for+a+portrait+in+the+BSU+room+at+Coffman+Memorial+Union+on+Wednesday%2C+Feb.+24.+A+junior+pursuing+a+Bachelor+of+Science+in+Sociology%2C+Ajibola+hopes+to+continue+her+education+with+a+Masters+in+Public+Health+at+the+U.

Audrey Rauth

Black Student Union president Samiat Ajibola poses for a portrait in the BSU room at Coffman Memorial Union on Wednesday, Feb. 24. A junior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Ajibola hopes to continue her education with a Masters in Public Health at the U.

Jasmine Snow, City Reporter

When members of the University of Minnesota’s Black Student Union (BSU) noticed fellow Black students dropping out during the COVID-19 pandemic due to financial difficulties, they knew they could not stand aside.

“We just thought we could do more,” said BSU president Samiat Ajibola. “Since we have a lot of connections in the community, we figured we might as well just do it ourselves because we didn’t want to have to wait for the University or anything like that.”

They have put an end to their wait — the BSU has decided to fund its own scholarship exclusively for Black students on the Twin Cities campus.

Ajibola said the group hopes to raise a total of at least $20,000 to be doled out to about 40 students. They hope to give a minimum of $200 to each student. She said the needs-based scholarship will likely be funded primarily through donations and that any exact amount awarded will not be finalized for some time.

“In a perfect world, we’d get enough money to be able to support every single student that applies,” she said. “But right now, it’s kind of just however much we get is how much we give.”

The BSU hopes to have a short essay prompt for applicants and will ask students about their financial need while considering that, even if they are in a higher tax bracket, parents may not help fund a recipient’s college.

Ajibola acknowledged the resources the University has made available to Black students already, such as the George Floyd scholarship, which was plagued by criticism and legal technicalities. She said unlike the Floyd scholarship, BSU’s scholarship would not be subject to the same Title VI race-exclusivity restrictions because of the way both it and the organization are funded.

Fanta Diallo, a University and Students for a Democratic Society alum, was instrumental in making sure the University would give additional consideration to Black students for the Floyd scholarship.

She said although she had reservations about the final product, scholarships specifically geared toward Black and African American students are an important step in addressing institutional racism as a whole.

“Scholarships like these are the reason why I was able to go to college,” Diallo said in an email to the Minnesota Daily. “To anyone weighing if they should or should not apply for this, I would say do it. The more people of color who apply for scholarships like this the more we will be able to show that there is a need and where there is a need, as a society we can ask for a solution.”

So far, BSU has already raised about $800 in donations toward the scholarship. A majority of the funding has come from the local chapter of PERIOD.MN, a recently disbanded University group that advocated improved access to menstrual products and gender equity.

“BSU deserves the money and I am just happy we were able to help contribute to the scholarship,” said Esmé Call, former director of marketing for the University’s PERIOD.MN chapter.

BSU plans to launch a social media campaign next month where more details about the scholarship will be released.