WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (APRIL 11, 2019) (REUTERS) – Students at Georgetown University on Thursday (April 11) voted on whether to initiate a student fee that would benefit descendants of slaves. The GU272 referendum proposes that students at Georgetown add $27.20 per semester to their tuition beginning in the fall of 2020.
The number 272 is symbolic because it reflects the 272 slaves the university sold in 1838 to pay off debt and keep the institution afloat.
Many students on campus believe now is the time for Georgetown University to address its painful past and make reparations for the university’s ties to slavery, while others believe the money should not be coming from the students and should instead come from other university income streams.
The Washington, D.C.-based university, run by the Roman Catholic Jesuit order, has in past years given admissions considerations to descendants of the slaves sold by the university.
Melisande Short Colomb, a Georgetown student and descendant of the slaves that were sold by the university, says this is an important time in the university’s history and that the ancestors are “well pleased” with the actions the students are taking. Her relative Charles Ethan Clarke, also a descendant of the slaves sold by Georgetown, said for him it’s a moral issue that should be addressed.
International student Christof Kuehn from Germany said he disagrees with the referendum because specifics on how the money will be allocated are not spelled out in the language of the proposition. Proponents say this movement is just beginning and will gain clarity, and point out that even the U.S. constitution has amendments.