On Thursday, students at Georgetown University voted to raise the cost of tuition to pay descendants of slaves that were owned by the university in the 1800s.
According to the university, 3,845 students exercised their right to vote in the school’s election. To provide reparations to the descendants of 272 slaves sold by Georgetown in 1838, students expressed their willingness to pay an additional $27.20 per semester.
One of the students leading the referendum, Shepard Thomas, is a direct descendant of the school’s slaves.
“The school wouldn’t be here without them,” said Thomas.“ Students here always talk about changing the world after they graduate. Why not change the world when you’re here? It makes me feel happy that we, as students, decided to set a precedent for the betterment of people’s lives.”
The New York Times reported that Georgetown “relied heavily on Jesuit plantations” and added that by selling the majority of their slaves, the university earned what would be over 3 million dollars today.
Georgetown has yet to decide whether they will implement the reparations fund, but if they move forward, it will make the increase in tuition could approximately raise $380,800 in the upcoming school year.
Following the vote, Todd Olson, Georgetown Vice President for Student Affairs, released an official statement in response to the efforts of the students.
“We value the engagement of our students and appreciate that they are making their voices heard and contributing to an important national conversation,” said Olson.
“There are many approaches that enable our community to respond to the legacies of slavery,” the statement said. “The University has made a commitment to further our efforts in dialogue and partnership with the Descendant community, seeking to promote work that draws on the inherent strengths and expertise of our community in collaboration with the Descendant and Jesuit communities and that promotes racial justice.”