Georgetown undergrads OK referendum for reparations fund

Recognizing the role the university played in the trafficking of enslaved Blacks, students voted to include a fee in their tuition to address the past

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Undergraduates at Georgetown University have taken the unprecedented step of approving a referendum for a reparations fund, CBS News is reporting.

The cache of money would go toward paying the descendants of slaves who were sold to pay off the school’s debt. The $27.20 per semester fee would amount to one of the first-ever such reparations funds at a U.S. institution.

According to the Georgetown University Student Association Elections Commission, 2,541 students — 66 percent of voters — approved the measure while 1,304 students voted against it, according to CBS. Voting ended Thursday night.

READ MORE: Descendants of slaves sold by Georgetown University say they want reparations now

Representatives for the Washington, D.C. college were noncommittal in their reaction to the move by the students.

University administrator Todd Olson said in a statement Friday that the student vote offered “valuable insight into student perspectives.”

School spokesman Matt Hill told CBS before the vote that no matter how the students cast their ballots, Georgetown would “remain committed to engaging with students, descendants, and the broader Georgetown community and addressing its historical relationship to slavery.”

The proposal, led by students, sought to address Georgetown’s sale of 272 slaves back in 1838. The funds collected by the fees would go toward helping marginalized communities where their descendants have settled — including Maringouin, La.

READ MORE: Georgetown employee finds out university sold his slave ancestor

Although students approved the measure, they were divided on the issue, based on editorials in two campus publications.

An editorial in the Georgetown Voice urged students to vote yes, saying the proposal would allow the school to “move past memorialization to concretely address how our school’s past affects people in the present.”

An editorial in the Georgetown Hoya took an opposing view, arguing that such a fee would apply an “unjust imposition of a moral judgment on the entire student body.”

Georgetown in the past has apologized for its role in slavery. The campus is built in an area of Washington that was once home to a Black community.

READ MORE: Georgetown University to give descendants of slaves linked to school’s founding priority for admission