Georgetown University Students Overwhelmingly Voted In Favor Of Creating Reparations Fund

DCist | 4/12/2019 | Staff
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Georgetown University students voted overwhelmingly on Thursday in favor of creating a new student fee to benefit descendants of slaves sold nearly 200 years ago to benefit the school.

Two-thirds of students voted yes to a non-binding referendum that says students “wish to at least partially repay our debts to those families whose involuntary sacrifices made these privileges possible” through a $27.20 fee each semester.

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It would generate nearly $400,000 a year for programs in communities where direct descendants of the 272 people sold in 1838 now live, such as Maringouin, Louisiana. A board of trustees, half of which would be made up of descendants, would determine which charitable causes to direct the funds toward.

With nearly 58 percent turnout, it was the highest participation in a Georgetown student election, according to The Hoya.

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“I’m very happy. I have to sit with this for a minute,” says Mélisande Short-Colomb, a descendant who attends Georgetown and is a member of the GU272 Advocacy Team that lobbied for the referendum. “I’m so proud of the students, of how hard we worked. I hope the administration and the Jesuits and their parents and families are proud of them, because they stepped up into a subject that’s been kicked down the road for centuries.”

But school officials have emphasized that the results of the vote aren’t binding. “Student referendums help to express important student perspectives but do not create university policy,” Georgetown spokesperson Matt Hill said before the vote.

Todd - Olson - Georgetown - Vice - President

Todd Olson, Georgetown’s vice president for student affairs, expressed appreciation for students’ engagement on the issue in a statement after the vote, but didn’t make any commitments as to how the university plans to proceed. The school’s board of directors would need to approve the creation of a new student fee.

“There are many approaches that enable our community to respond to...
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