In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 slaves who were working on plantations in Maryland to pay off the school’s debts. Now, for the 2017-2018 school year, Georgetown will give the “same consideration we give members of the Georgetown community” to the descendants of those slaves. In short, this means that their applications will be given a “second look,” and that the relationship of the descendants to Georgetown will be considered during the application process. Georgetown has a statistical history of improvement regarding diversity, with its percentage of white students decreasing steadily to a rate of 48 percent as of 2014. This rate is comparatively better than similar schools like UVA and Duke, and significantly better than the University; the Class of 2019 is 76.7 percent Caucasian, leaving the remaining 23.3 percent to represent students of color.
Too often we see scandals in which institutions cover up past injustices and do nothing to make amends. However, Georgetown President John DeGioia recognized the issues in a Sept. 1 press conference.
“We must acknowledge that Georgetown University participated in the institution of slavery. There were slaves here on the hilltop until emancipation in 1862,” DeGioia said.
In my opinion, the institution handled the situation well by offering the descendants of the institution’s slavery victims consideration in admissions and by creating an inclusive environment for a population that has been historically disadvantaged.
It is important to create an atmosphere in which individuals who face social obstacles feel as if they have an equal chance at obtaining an education, helping to break down the race and class divides that plague many top-tier institutions today.