Today undergraduate students will be voting on a referendum to mandate that a slave reparation fee be added to increase Georgetown University tuition per semester.
The $27.20 fee will be used to create a fund to benefit those students whose descendants were among 272 slaves sold in 1838 in order to pay off Georgetown Jesuits’ debt.
Currently, the university has a “legacy” student (legacy students are those who are descended from the 272 slaves) admissions policy.
Sophomore student, Melisande Short-Colomb is among four legacy students attending the university. In her statement in a town meeting regarding the benefits received for future students because the sale of the slaves saved the university said:
The Jesuits sold my family and 40 other families so you could be here […] There is an obligation for Georgetown to reconcile its sins, and that obligation falls squarely on the institution.
Although student referendums do not specifically make university policy, nor are beholding to them, Georgetown uses them to engage with the student community. In this particular case, it will assist the university in communicating to both the university community and the community as a whole that Georgetown University is committed to making reparations for their history of slave ownership.