Georgetown University announced on Thursday that it will offer preferential admission consideration for the descendants of slaves who built the school, including those who were later sold by the university. University President John DeGioia said in a letter that the university is now attempting to make amends for its past transgressions. His letter arrives alongside a report from The New York Times, which rounds up some history about the university’s 1838 sale of 272 slaves in order to settle debts.
Georgetown’s new policy is similar to the one offered to the relatives of its alumni. This is part of a five-step plan that the University outlined to help build relations among the community. Other steps include the University offering a formal apology for its actions, building an Institute for the Study of Slavery, renaming two buildings in honor of a slave and free women of color, and building a memorial to the slaves who helped build the university. The university hopes these contributions will act as a beginning of things to come:
“I believe the most appropriate ways for us to redress the participation of our predecessors in the institution of slavery is to address the manifestations of the legacy of slavery in our time. As I shared one year ago when we launched this Working Group: ultimately, this will be the work of our Georgetown community. Each one of us, and all of us, has a role that we can play and a contribution that we can make … This moment is an opening, a beginning, an invitation for us —– and each of us is welcomed to engage, to offer perspectives, to reflect, and to understand anew the responsibilities that we have to one another.”
Georgetown officials haven’t announced whether they will offer scholarships in addition to preferential admission treatment. DeGioia is scheduled to make a formal announcement on the plan on Thursday.