Georgetown University could become the nation’s first college to mandate a fee to benefit descendants of slaves sold by the university nearly 200 years ago.
The university’s students overwhelmingly voted in favor of the measure on Thursday, which would increase tuition by $27.20 per semester to create a fund that would benefit the descendants of the 272 slaves sold to pay off the Georgetown Jesuits’ debt–a move that saved the university financially, @abcnews reports.
The measure still must be approved by the university in order for it to go into effect.
Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs at Georgetown University, said in a statement that he lauded the students’ efforts.
“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,” Olson said.
The university has promised 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,” Matt Hill, the university’s media relations manager, told ABC News in a statement.
Descendants of the slaves had a space to share their opinion on the issue at a town hall last week.
“The Jesuits sold my family and 40 other families so you could be here,” said sophomore Melisande Short-Colomb.
Short-Colomb is one of four students currently attending the university under an admissions policy that considers the descendants of the 272 slaves as “legacy” students.
That group also includes Elizabeth Thomas, who will receive her master’s degree from Georgetown University in May and is a desk assistant at ABC News in Washington. Thomas is a descendant of Sam and Betsy Harris, who were enslaved and sold by Georgetown University in 1838. If the current referendum passes, it’s unclear whether Thomas would receive any reparations in the future.
We’ll keep you posted on this story, Roommates.
TSR STAFF: Christina C! @cdelafresh