The First Reparations Attempt at an American College Comes From Its Students
Earlier this month, Georgetown University undergraduates voted overwhelmingly to tax themselves $27.20 per semester to create a fund that will support the descendants of the enslaved people from whom the university profited. The fact that students may be ahead of the school in paying reparations, Saahil Desai reported, is evidence of just how little the university has done to make amends for its misdeeds.
In this, Georgetown is not alone. Many antebellum colleges—Harvard, Brown, Rutgers, the University of Virginia, William & Mary—have begun to grapple with their slaveholding past, Desai wrote, but none has yet acted on a plan that transcends symbols to atone for the wrong it has done.
I’m a current senior at Georgetown University, but perhaps of more immediate relevance, I’m one of the organizers of the recent campaign for the referendum, Establish a New GU272 Legacy and Create the Reconciliation Contribution. Specifically, I’m the person in charge of moderating our social-media accounts. You can imagine, then, that I have some perspective on what the public has had to say about our initiative.
When your article asked “Why are Georgetown students paying for reparations?” (emphasis implied, but my own), it marked probably the 600th time in the past week that I’ve heard that question. By and large, the most common critique we as a group of students have received is that students shouldn’t be the ones to pay for the university’s past mistakes—that we’re letting the administration “off the hook” by establishing this fund. So let me be clear: This is not that.