Students at Georgetown University may soon see a new $27.20 fee pop up on their bill each semester, and it's one they voted to add. ABC News reports that undergrads at the Jesuit college voted Thursday, by an almost 2-to-1 margin, to approve a referendum that would mandate the fee, which would benefit descendants of slaves that Georgetown sold in 1838 to fend off financial ruin. CNN notes that the collected fees would amount to about $400,000 annually and, per the bill, would "be allocated for charitable purposes directly benefiting the descendants ... and other persons once enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits." The referendum isn't binding, however, and would still need to get the OK from the university's board of trustees.
So why the specific $27.20? There were 272 slaves sold off for about $500,000 in today's dollars to keep the university out of debt. "The Jesuits sold my family and 40 other families so you could be here," one sophomore descendant said at a town hall last week, per ABC. "It's not enough to say sorry," concurs another student, who has interviewed some of the descendants for the student newspaper, per CNN. "Georgetown has to put their money where their mouth is and invest into the descendant community." Other students, however, dissent with the majority who voted for the fee; even some of those who agree reparations should somehow be made don't think students should be the ones to shoulder the burden. "There is an obligation for Georgetown to reconcile its sins, and that obligation falls squarely on the institution," one sophomore notes. (A New York Times columnist recently changed his mind on reparations.)