Welcome to 2019—where whole-ass cities are suing their citizens for allegedly beating themselves up, affluent white folks are fucking off their privilege by scamming universities, a black kid from Atlanta has resurrected country music, and reparations are somehow trending without the need of a hashtag.
But while presidential hopefuls such as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rouke are talking about it, the students at Georgetown University are apparently very much about that action—as ABC News reports the school could become the first college in the nation to mandate a fee to benefit descendants of slaves that were sold by the university nearly 200 years ago.
I know that look on your face: Wait, what? How the hell did this happen?
It happened because the students felt so strongly about reparations that they took it to a vote. And by a 2-to-1 margin, they voted in favor of cutting the check.
The referendum—dubbed a “Reconciliation Contribution”—would increase tuition by $27.20 per semester to create a $400,000 fund that benefits descendants of the 272 slaves that Georgetown Jesuits sold in 1838. The fees would be poured into communities where roughly 4,000 descendants live, including Maringouin, La.
“No one in this room was here in 1838 when this happened,” sophomore Melisande Short-Colomb told a room full of her peers packed into Georgetown’s Leavy Hall a week before the vote. As one of four students currently attending that is a descendant of the 272 who were sold, she’s considered a “legacy” student.
“But we have a chance today to make a difference, so I’m going to pay my $54,” she said, a clear reference to her final two semesters before graduation.
But no matter how well intended, the measure is still pending university approval.
“Student referendums help to express important student perspectives but do not create university policy and are not binding,” Matt Hill, the university’s media relations manager, said in a statement. “The university will carefully review the results of the referendum, and regardless of the outcome, will remain committed to engaging with students, Descendants, and the broader Georgetown community and addressing its historical relationship to slavery.”
Georgetown itself has apologized for its role in slavery and maintains its committed to proposing ways to publicly acknowledge and take responsibility for its actions, but it’s never offered any form of financial compensation or restitution. So if this goes into effect, it will be interesting to see how other institutions throughout the country react.
“I don’t see why this institution can’t lead the nation and these students can’t lead the nation and this society in grappling with how do we get this done,” Short-Comb told Newsweek.