“The process is anchored in the practice of trust-building, truth-telling, racial healing, and transformation.”
Students at Georgetown University have agreed to vote on adding a slavery-reparations tax to their tuition bills in the name of “racial healing.”
Though the university’s selling of 272 men, women, and children in 1838 will forever be a blight on its history, Georgetown has in recent years worked hard to ease its conscience. In 2017 the school issued an apology. It also renamed buildings honoring slavers, and added a touch of affirmative action to its admissions in favor of “descendants of slaves” as part of the school’s “comprehensive atonement.”
For good measure, an action group called the Institute for the Study of Racial Justice was formed in sync with the African American Studies Department.
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The one thing missing was to make students pay more.
On Feb. 3, the student government rectified this oversight, and in a 20-4 vote, called for an April referendum to create a fund to benefit the descendants of those enslaved by Georgetown. If passed, the motion, named GU272 after the number of slaves sold, will add $54.40 to students’ annual tuition starting in 2020, when they will be paying nearly $60,000.
“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,” reads the resolution, obtained by The College Fix.
Campus spokesman Matt Hill said that the goal of the resolution is “reconciliation and transformation regarding the legacy of slavery.”
“The process is anchored in the practice of trust-building, truth-telling, racial healing, and transformation,” he added.
“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,” it added.
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Of the four student council members who opposed the referendum, at least one, according to the The Hoya student newspaper, maintained that the burden of the Georgetown’s past should be paid for by the university, not its students.
“It’s manifestly Georgetown University’s obligation to make financial commitments regarding its legacy with slavery, not [the] students’,” student senator Evan Farrara said. “Additionally, student money should only be used towards student’s purposes, even if non-student purposes are meaningful, as in today’s referendum.”
With racial sensitivity and social justice becoming an intractable part of academic life, students nationwide are in a rush to make amends for the sins of the past. But in the urgency to right old wrongs, new ones (sometimes minor, sometimes less so) have been tolerated.
According to The Hoya – which joined the Georgetown Voice in campaigning for the motion – the resolution does offer some exemptions, including for students receiving financial aid.
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