Students at one of the most prestigious colleges in the country will soon vote on whether to fine themselves in order to pay benefits to the descendants of slaves sold by the university more than 181 years ago.
The Georgetown student government recently announced a campus-wide referendum on whether to establish a fund for the descendants of 272 men, women and children sold by the university in 1838.
If passed, the $27.20 per student fee would be collected every semester beginning in the fall of 2020. The $27.20 amount is "in honor of the 272 people sold by Georgetown" states the student government resolution, according to The College Fix.
The student body vote will be held in April along with the annual student government elections, according to the resolution obtained by the website.
"The proceeds of the GU272 Reconciliation Contributions will be allocated for charitable purposes directly benefiting the descendants of the GU272 and other persons once enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits — with special consideration given to causes and proposals directly benefiting those descendants still residing in proud and underprivileged communities," the resolution stated.
Georgetown, a private Catholic institution, has attempted to make amends over the past few years for its historical connection to slavery. In 1838, the school sold 272 slaves to pay off its debts. In April 2017, it officially apologized for the sale of human beings.
Administration officials have also renamed two buildings on campus named after Jesuits who were in involved in the sale. The school has created an African-American Studies Department and are working to establish an Institute for the Study of Racial Justice. The university will also offer an admissions edge to the descendants of slaves.
Four student senators who voted against the referendum said their reasoning came from the argument that most of the school's 7,500 undergraduates will not support collecting the fee, according to campus news outlets. The student senators said the university should create the fund, not the students.
Campus spokesman Matt Hill provided a university statement to The College Fix last week regarding the matter.
"The Descendant Community, the Society of Jesus, and Georgetown are engaged in a facilitated dialogue with the goal of reconciliation and transformation regarding the legacy of slavery. The process is anchored in the practice of trust-building, truth-telling, racial healing, and transformation. This dialogue will guide our long term work together, which will include creating a memorial and implementing other recommendations from the Working Group as well as new ideas emanating from the dialogue in collaboration with Descendants," the statement said.
"We appreciate the engagement and support of students, and GUSA and will continue to consult with students and other members of the university community as we work in partnership with Descendants on a process that recognizes the terrible legacy of slavery and promotes racial justice in southern Louisiana, southern Maryland and throughout the nation," the statement added.