Opinion

Elite schools and slavery reparations

Washington DC USA October 20, 2018 Georgetown University. Georgetown neighborhood. Getty Images.

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

So, what is all this water-cooler talk about slavery reparations?

After reading Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel’s column on the huge endowments of universities, I feel obliged to offer more thought. Admittedly, I don’t have the brain thrust of these two but here’s another read (albeit much quicker) on these elite schools and their newest pet project: slavery reparations.

Last week the New York Times tells us that Georgetown University’s officials agreed upon a non-binding reparations referendum by the students to increase undergrad tuition to benefit the descendants of 272 slaves who — two centuries ago — were sold to keep the school “afloat.” Whatever that means. Must have been floundering.

Georgetown is very proud of its history and its traditions, the school’s website expounds. It is the oldest Catholic institution of higher learning in the U.S., founded in 1789. Seems back in 1838, the NY Times explains, the Jesuits who owned plantations in Maryland surrounding the campus, sold off their slaves to fundraise for their beloved school. To their credit, that truly was forward-thinking on their part since the Civil War didn’t come along until April, 1861. Although little is said about who they sold the slaves to. Evidently the plantations, whose profits supported the school, were doing rather poorly. Charitable families that they were, why pay for food and housing for an army of workers if they weren’t bringing in profit? Time to downsize. Hence the sell-off to profit the school.

NYTimes has been following the Georgetown students’ slavery reparations venture religiously. It reports that back in April of this year the school’s undergrads had pledged to raise $400,000 a year for their Jesuits’ centuries-old sins by increasing yearly tuition by $27.20 per student. The school has around 7,000 undergrads, so about $380,000 a year would be collected for this new fledgling fund. The students’ referendum was non-binding because the school required their officials to vote in agreement. Which they did, wholeheartedly.

According to Georgetown Voice, the student bi-weekly news magazine, the annual cost to attend the university full-time is $71,580 of which $53,420 is tuition, $15,434 is room and board, $1,200 is for books and supplies, $2,646 and $580 for…whatever.

That is, of course, for those of us without any benefactors, grants or tuition gratis, or campus buildings named after family. Also, don’t bother if your last name is Loughlin or Huffman.

Back in 2016, Georgetown had agreed to give admissions preference to the descendants of the 272 slaves. Two buildings on the campus were also named after the first two slaves who were sold. Seems to me, that’s plenty atonement for centuries-old indiscretions. But no.

Other liberal American institutions of higher learning have also jumped on the reparations’ bandwagon. Princeton Theological Seminary announced a whopping big $27 million in scholarships and other initiatives to make its amends. Earlier, in September, Virginia Theological Seminary created a $1.7 million reparations fund.

Tucker and Patel report in their November 1 column that Harvard and Yale endowments are $40 billion and $30 billion respectively. Think about that. These schools have so much excess, yet they won’t reduce tuition for their students; most of whom when they graduate will struggle under huge student-loan debt.

What started all this reparations cooler talk? Washington Post tells us that last year a new hire, a school archivist, discovered Reverend Mother Superior Agnes Brent’s notes about disposing of a Negro family at the Georgetown Convent. The nuns at the convent owned 107 slaves at the time. More records were uncovered at the Society of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, where it seems nuns had owned about 150 blacks.

Oh my God! An act as egregious as Epstein Reverend Fathers! (No irony intended, my Baptist sensibilities truly are reeling.) But, however flawed, these facts are old history. As a civilized society that learns from these past transgressions, we seek forgiveness and correct our behavior, right? Currently, the clergy has serious modern-day moral offenses to address. Their raw, hurting parishioners are not generations-removed persons with transference issues.

All of the above historical digging soon raised up another accuser: Sheperd Thomas, the first in a long line of slavery descendants ultimately seeking one billion dollars from the institution.

When told Georgetown would not give assistance with medical bills, housing or scholarships, what was his response? “That’s not sufficient.” Hmm.

Whatever happened to the healthy endeavor, Thomas, of “breaking the cycle”. One’s wisdom to ask pardon for past sins and move on. You know, forgive and forget.

Shouldn’t we as a society recognize our past sins but demand that our generations NOT pay for “sins of the father”? Then, why is it these educators are so willing to allow their students to take up that burdensome mantle of past sins? Why not just acknowledge American history’s failures in the classroom, give the kids a break economically and move on?

Must be too much common sense.

Tanya Hazelton

Tanya Hazelton is a former small business owner with a wide range of interests. With a BA in English-Creative Writing, MA in Fine Arts, PhD in Counseling and an AFI screenwriting certificate, she's a published author of supplementary readers in the public schools. Her books are available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble. She is pleased to join BizPacReview as a columnist. Visit her author's website at www.eagle7haz.wix.com/mysite
Tanya Hazelton

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