April 12 (UPI) -- Students at Georgetown University students have approved a referendum to add a reparation fee to their tuition that will go to descendants of slaves the school sold nearly 200 years ago.
The measure passed by a vote of 2,541-1,304 late Thursday. The addition of the $27.20 fee represents the number of slaves (272) sold by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus in 1838, who are often referred to as the Georgetown University 272, or GU272. The proposal was organized by the GU272 Advocacy Team, which conducted an outreach campaign to educate students about slavery.
The referendum is non-binding, and any such fee would need approval from Georgetown administrators.
The vote saw the highest student turnout in the school's student government history.
Shepard Thomas, a member of the team, said he's pleased with the results.
"I'm definitely happy to see the response that we have, around 50 percent," he said. "I would just be happy to see the dialogue continue in the same direction."
"We recognize the great privileges we have been given, and wish to at least partially repay our debts to the families whose involuntary sacrifices made these privileges possible," the resolution states. "We choose to do more than simply recognize the past -- we resolve to change our future."
Tuition at Georgetown, a private school in Washington, D.C., costs about $55,000 a year. The vote marks the first time students have favored a slavery reparation.
"The students remembered, recognized, and re-ignited awareness about descendants who literally made it possible for today's Georgetown University," Lee Baker, a GU272 descendant, told The Hoya. "Regardless of what happens, we will know that Georgetown University students practiced solidarity and decided to ensure that such an historic injustice has a permanent lens for awareness, analysis and action."
Some Democratic candidates for president have also raised the issue of reparations -- including 2020 Democratic hopeful Cory Booker.