Georgetown says fundraising, not student fee, will support projects to benefit descendants of slaves

Georgetown University has announced plans to use fundraising as a way to pay for community-based projects that will support descendants impacted by the school’s role in the slave trade instead of a student fee.

The school has taken steps in recent years to make amends with those impacted by the enslavement of men, women and children on Jesuit plantations in Maryland during that time.In 1838, the school sold 272 slaves to pay off its debts.

In April, students voted overwhelmingly for a referendum that would have imposed a student fee to finance the projects. Students estimated the fee would have raised a total of about $400,000 to go toward the initiative.

However, Georgetown University President President John J. DeGioia announced in a letter Monday that the projects to support those impacted by the slave trade would instead be funded through community fundraising efforts.

“The University will ensure that the initiative has resources commensurate with, or exceeding, the amount that would have been raised annually through the student fee proposed in the Referendum, with opportunities for every member of our community to contribute,” he added.

The university said the focus will be on long-term impacts like developing a new preschool program or health care initiative. The university will also focus on academic and research initiatives, as well as public history.

The next step will be to create an advisory group that will develop a plan for launching the initiative and soliciting ideas.

“We envision that students, faculty, staff, alumni, and Descendants will serve on each of these groups and that they will engage our broader community on their progress and activities,” DeGioia said in the statement.

The university apologized for its role in the slave trade in 2017, but has been met with calls for more to be done. The university said it expects to launch the nationwide projects during the fall of the 2020-2021 academic year.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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