Jennifer Kabbany, College Fix, February 6, 2019
Georgetown University students will soon vote on whether they want to tax themselves to benefit the descendants of slaves sold by the university in the 1830s.
Its student government recently authorized a campuswide student referendum on whether to establish a fund for the families of the 272 men, women and children sold by Georgetown in 1838.
If approved, the semesterly fee would begin to be collected in the fall of 2020 and start at $27.20 per student “in honor of the 272 people sold by Georgetown,” states the student government resolution approving the referendum, a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by The College Fix.
“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.
The student government resolution approving the campuswide referendum was passed Feb. 3 by a vote of 20 in favor and 4 against, and with that the student body vote will occur in April alongside the annual student government elections, according to the resolution.
Over the past few years, Georgetown has undertaken a plan to reckon with the legacy of slavery at the private Catholic institution. In 1838, the university sold 272 slaves to pay off its debts. It officially apologized for the sale in April 2017.
In seeking to make amends, campus officials have also renamed two buildings on campus named after the Jesuits who were involved in the sale of the slaves and created an African American Studies Department and a working group on the establishment of an Institute for the Study of Racial Justice. The university has also agreed to “offer an admissions edge to descendants of slaves as part of a comprehensive atonement” for the school’s past actions.
But the student government resolution stated that’s not enough.
Students receiving financial aid from the university would not have to pay the fee, according to The Hoya student news outlet. And both The Hoya and the Georgetown Voice reported that proponents of the measure now plan to launch an education campaign in support of the referendum’s passage.
Among the four student senators who voted against putting forth the referendum, the campus news outlets report their reasons ranged from the argument that most of the school’s some 7,500 undergrads will not support it to that the university had an obligation to create the fund, not students.