By Adelle Engmann
Students from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. voted to increase their per semester tuition by $27.20 per student to fund reparations for the descendants of 272 African slaves owned by the school in the late 1830s.
Georgetown University sold the slaves in 1838 to help pay off the university’s debt. The sale was arranged by university presidents, who at the time were also Jesuit priests. The slaves were sold for $115,000, which is worth over $3 million today.
Georgetown administration publicly apologized for its part in slave history, renamed some buildings on campus in honor of the slaves and gave preferred admission to slave descendants. Some students didn’t see these gestures as enough.
Hannah Michael, a sophomore at Georgetown and coordinator of the referendum to provide the reparations, said that five elected students and five elected slave descendants would decide how best to use the funds raised. She suggested projects such as internet access, eye exams and repaving roads in the communities in which the descendants live.
Michael added that although the university has committed moral sins in the past and should face repercussions, Georgetown students also have an obligation to do so as beneficiaries of a slaveholding legacy.
The reparation funding is not supported by all students.
Hayley Grande and Samuel Dubke, two student government leaders at Georgetown, argued in the university newspaper that the university itself is responsible to pay its dues, not the students.
58 percent of Georgetown’s student body participated in the vote. 66 percent of those who participated voted in favor of the increased fee to fund the reparations. Now, the reparation fee will need to be approved by the university’s board of trustees.
It is unclear if the university will officially pass the reparation fee, but Georgetown students who voted for the funding are hopeful. If the board approves the proposal, the increased fee will begin fall semester 2020.
Photo of Georgetown University courtesy Alex Wong/Getty Images.
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