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Georgetown Board Should Say NO to Forced So-Called Reparations!

Politico has a fascinating article on how Georgetown University is grappling with the issue of a time when the university apparently sold a number of slaves (272 according to the article) in the 1830s. It is not clear why they possessed the slaves in the first place and why they were resold other than financial hardship by the university.

But apparently the university did sell the slaves and now the administration has come up with some ideas to make amends:

In September 2015, Georgetown’s president, John J. DeGioia, impaneled a working group of academics, administrators and students to study the issue. Two months later,black students staged a sit-in in his office successfully demanding the removal of names like Mulledy’s, which still graced several prominent buildings on campus. In 2016, the university agreed to give admissions preference to descendants of the 272 slaves; and the first two descendants arrived in the fall of 2017. College officials and the Jesuits held a mass of contrition in the spring of 2017 as a formal mea culpa for the sale.

These are useful ideas (other than the removal of the names – that needs a study as to the entire life of the person) and I could endorse them. (I would like to know more about how the university acquired the slaves but they could easily have been manumitted rather than resold.) The best reparation is to take the value of the money earned by the university in today’s dollars and split it up among the descendants. (Yes, there is a value for freedom but how to determine that? I would say the damages are too speculative to access so I agree with the admissions preference to the descendants of the slaves.)

But then the students came up with this idea instead and it was on the student ballot Thursday, April 11:

This week, Georgetown students are attempting to change that.

On April 11, undergraduates will vote on a referendum to create a $27.20 per semester student fee to create a fund that would benefit the descendants through education and health care initiatives in the Louisiana and Maryland locales where many of them still live.If the measure passes, and the university’s board of directors approves, it will mark the first time a major American institution has gone beyond the platitudes of “dialogue” and actually compensated the victims of slavery. And it comes at a moment, not entirely coincidentally, when the conversation about America’s racial reckoning has suddenly emerged as a subject many progressives are using to winnow the sprawling field of Democrats in the 2020 presidential campaign.

The students voted by nearly 2 -1 margin to recommend this mandatory student fee to the Georgetown board:

The results of the referendum are as follows: 66.08% for yes (2541 votes), 33.92% for no (1304 votes). This means that the referendum passes.

GUSA Elections Twitter account

The Board needs to say NO; here’s why:

First this is a mandatory assessment – let’s call it a tax to attend the school. It is not any kind of compensation to any “victim”. as the article states. It is forcing each student to pay money to a fund – not a fund to help the descendants of the slaves – but to fund “health care” and ” health care initiatives” in the areas where the descendants presently reside. This is not compensation for anybody directly affected by slavery. Compensation is a payment to make whole a victim of a crime or or a tort (a civil wrong such as an auto accident) or even a breach of contract.

I suggest this not reparations and if it is it is by force. The force of if you do not pay the student fee – something happens to you. Something you do not want. From the Georgetown (graduate) Student Accounts website:

Late Registration and Outstanding Balance Service Charge: Any student with an outstanding balance as of the end of the add/drop period is subject to a flat $100.00 fee, assessed by the Registrar. At the end of each month following the start of classes, any outstanding balance will be subject to a service charge equal to 1.75% of the balance in question.

So there’s interest to be charged and a $100.00 fee. But delinquent bills will be sent to collection:

Delinquent Accounts: Any student who becomes inactive – whether by withdrawal, leave of absence, failure to register, or graduation – and has an outstanding balance will be sent a final bill. If the account is not settled in full within 30 days of the final bill, the account will be assessed a final month’s service charge and referred to a collection agency. A collection agency fee of up to one-third of the value of the debt will be assessed to the account.

And the student CANNOT GRADUATE! (Emphasis in bold and italics are mine)

Financial Holds: Any student for whom there remains an outstanding balance prior to the start of pre-registration for the next semester will have a financial hold placed on his or her account. This hold will prevent registration for future terms, will prevent graduation, and will prohibit the student from requesting an official transcript. The hold will remain in place until the outstanding balance has been resolved. For more information on financial holds, click here.

The ABC story calls the fee a “tuition increase”:

Not all students are on board with the proposed tuition increase. Some who oppose it expressed concerns as to where the money would be spent and how long they’d on the hook for paying. Several students noted they were working to support themselves and any additional costs wouldn’t be welcomed.

Politico suggests other arguments against the forced student fee:

Like the American public at large, Georgetown students are far from unanimous in their support for the reparations fee. For one, it puts the burden of paying on students instead of the university. It raises the cost of attendance for families, many already on shoestring budgets. Some black students wonder why, if they too are descended from slaves, they should pay reparations they feel entitled to themselves.

I think the forced student fee is a creature of good intentions. But the road to Hell is paved with such intentions. It is shameful that the nation did not do more earlier in time for African-American people. But this forced student fee is not the answer; the Georgetown Board should vote NO and offer a voluntary means for students and others to give to make amends if they feel led to do so.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

2 Responses to “Georgetown Board Should Say NO to Forced So-Called Reparations!”

  1. David Zodun says:

    Why should current and future students have anything to do with the “guilt” acquired over a century
    ago when Georgetown’s administration sold however many slaves? If such “guilt is inherited by anyone it is clearly not the students. If reparations are to be made they must come from the university’s endowment funds.
    Any alumni who has contributed to a university that is tainted by having once been slave owners should be happy to pay reparations to expiate their imputed “guilt” since he or she benifited financially from such a morally corrupt institution. How much and to whom, that is a question for another referendum.6

  2. JP says:

    Then why shouldn’t Egypt pay reparations to Jews and Israel? Lets us not stop this stupid media plague at 154 year in America. Let’s play this whole insane media BS for all its worth. The Egyption check is in the mail Israel! What a F’in joke.


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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