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Georgetown University Students Vote to Pay Reparations Fee to Benefit Slave Descendants

04-15-2019
Georgetown University (Photo: Georgetown University Website)

Georgetown University will likely be the first school in the country to require students to pay a reparation fee benefiting descendents of slavery. 

In 1838, the university sold 272 slaves to pay off the school's debt. Now students have voted overwhelmingly to give back to the slave descendents. 

The measure, which has to be approved, would cost students $27.20 per semester. The fund will go toward projects in low-income communities where slave descendents now live.

The vote had a turnout of nearly 58 percent. Associated Press reports 2,541 students voted for the "Reconciliation Contribution" while 1,304 opposed. 

It is unclear if the university will approve the measure, but in a statement after the vote, Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs at Georgetown University, stated, the "university values the engagement of our students and appreciates that 3,845 students made their voices heard in yesterday's election. Our students are contributing to an important national conversation and we share their commitment to addressing Georgetown's history with slavery."

In an interview with ABC News, Matt Hill, the university's media relations manager, stated, the university vows to "carefully review the results of the referendum, and regardless of the outcome, will remain committed to engaging with students, descendants, and the broader Georgetown community and addressing its historical relationship to slavery." 

"So I think the atmosphere on campus is 'what next,'" stated Nitya Biyani, a junior at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service, to CBS News. 

Biyani was one of the students who voted against the measure. 

"My issue with this is that I felt like the university was sort of tossing the buck on to students," she said. "I don't believe that students are the ones that need to be paying."

If approved, this would be Georgetown's fourth action to help ease the ongoing tension between the university and slave descendents. 

The school originally gave preferential status to descendants if they applied to the university. Secondly, they performed a liturgy service with descendants, where members of the university were part of an initiative to repent for the school's previous transgressions. 

In 2017, the university renamed a building after Isaac Hawkins, one of the slaves who was sold in 1838. 

The Students for GU272 advocacy group behind the measure is attempting to help other advocacy groups get reparations out of other universities as well. 

 

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