Georgetown University’s student body voted in favor of reparations to the descendants of enslaved people who were sold off in the 1800s.
The student body overwhelmingly favored the measure with a 2-1 vote on Thursday, reports ABC News. If it becomes policy, the referendum will result in a $27.20 tuition increase starting in fall 2020. The money would go toward a nonprofit benefiting the families of 272 enslaved people who were sold to save Georgetown from financial ruin.
“As students at an elite institution, we recognize the great privileges we have been given, and wish to at least partially repay our debts to those families whose involuntary sacrifices made these privileges possible,” wrote the sponsors of the measure. “As individuals with moral imagination, we choose to do more than simply recognize the past — we resolve to change our future.”
Georgetown students who come from those families are considered “legacy” students. Sophomore Melisande Short-Colomb believes the university should right its wrongs.
"No one in this room was here in 1838 when this happened," Short-Colomb said during a town hall meeting to discuss the referendum. "But we have a chance today to make a difference, so I'm going to pay my $54."
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The vote does not mean the referendum will become actual policy. The final decision rests with university officials, according to The Washington Post.
Todd Olson, vice president of student affairs, acknowledged the significance of the vote in a statement.
“The university values the engagement of our students and appreciates that 3,845 students made their voices heard in yesterday’s election,” he said. “Our students are contributing to an important national conversation and we share their commitment to addressing Georgetown’s history with slavery.”
Olson added, "We understand that the goals of the student referendum are to honor the 272 enslaved individuals sold by the Maryland Jesuits in 1838 and to advance ‘causes and proposals that directly benefit descendants still residing in underprivileged communities.’”
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