It’s a move that boggles the mind. Students at Georgetown University, many of whom are already either struggling to pay tuition or are taking out massive student loans to pay, just voted to increase their tuition to create a fund to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves sold by the school in 1838.
So, the students have agreed to pay for the school’s past sins. Brilliant.
The university already considers descendants of those sold to be “legacy” students, a designation usually applied to the children of alumni. Legacy students are twice as likely to get accepted to Georgetown as non-legacy students. Still, getting accepted doesn’t mean a free ride.
One of the descendants spoke up at a town hall on the issue last week, according to ABC News.
“The Jesuits sold my family and 40 other families so you could be here,” said the student, who is one of four descendants currently enrolled at Georgetown.
She acknowledged that “no one in this room was here in 1838 when this happened,” but said the school has “a chance today to make a difference, so I’m going to pay my $54.”
The vote was to increase tuition by $27.20 per semester to create the fund, some of the proceeds of which would presumably go right back to the student advocating for the fund.
ABC further reports that even though 3,845 (out of 4,523) students voted on the referendum, which passed by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, many students had valid concerns about the measure.
Some needed to know where and how the money would be spent and wondered how long this tuition increase would last. Others were concerned with the additional cost, as they were already paying their own way through school. Others wondered why it was their responsibility to pay for past sins.
“It’s unjust to compel 7,000-plus people to pay for the university’s historical sins,” a sophomore told ABC. “There is an obligation for Georgetown to reconcile its sins, and that obligation falls squarely on the institution.”
As The New York Times reported, the university’s board of directors have to approve the referendum, since it was created by students and thus nonbinding.
“We value the engagement of our students and appreciate that they are making their voices heard and contributing to an important national conversation,” said Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, in a statement to the Times.
Nothing in any of Olson’s statements to news outlets suggests the university actually plans to adopt the policy, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t seriously considering it.