We’ve written extensively over the last 14 months about Georgetown’s acknowledgement of the university’s past ties to slavery. Some months ago, it was announced that the university would consider the descendants of the men, women, and children who were slaves at Georgetown as legacies — meaning that these young people would have a distinct and rightful advantage in the highly selective college admissions process to the university akin to the sons and daughters of alumni of the school. Well, Georgetown is keeping its word. A pair of siblings who are the descendants of slaves sold to Georgetown have earned admission to the university.
As reports Jeff Cirillo and Ian Scoville for “The Hoya” in a piece about the two Georgetown admits, “Two descendants of slaves whose sale in 1838 benefited Georgetown now plan to attend the university in the fall as the first students to be enrolled under the university’s commitment to provide legacy admission status to descendants. The admission of siblings Shepard and Elizabeth Thomas, first reported by The New York Times, is a landmark moment in the university’s effort to reconcile and apologize for its historical involvement in the institution of slavery. The sale of 272 slaves by Maryland Jesuits in 1838 protected the financially troubled university from collapse. Shepard Thomas plans to study engineering in the College, and Elizabeth Thomas will study journalism in the School of Continuing Studies. The development comes after a year of efforts by the university to address its slaveholding past.”
And while this is a wonderful gesture by the Jesuit institution, our question is: why is this being made public? When the children of alumni of Georgetown earn admission to the university, there aren’t articles in “The Hoya” or press releases that these young people got in. Can you imagine a headline that reads, “Two Children of Multimillion Dollar Donors Earn Admission to Georgetown”? Likely not. So why is the story of these siblings being made public? We of course suspect the answer (it’s great PR!) but couldn’t Georgetown have just admitted these two students without announcing it to the press? What do our readers think? Is this truly a step toward atonement…or not?