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University of Virginia considers reparations for descendants of slave laborers

New scholarship, if approved, would benefit descendants of slaves who built university

The University of Virginia may launch a new scholarship to benefit descendants of slave laborers who built the campus over 200 years ago.

“There is little hope for reconciliation without repair, so paying our debts to the descendants of enslaved laborers who built and operated this University without compensation is a vital contribution to progress,” the public institution’s Racial Equity Task Force stated in its final report, released Aug. 10.

The reparations initiative is one of 12 suggested by the committee established in the wake of nationwide protests from civil activists.

In a statement to The College Fix, a spokesperson for the university stated the idea is under review by President James Ryan.

“President Ryan has received the report from the Racial Equity Task Force and is currently reviewing it … Once President Ryan has concluded his review, he plans to discuss the report with the Board of Visitors and will announce next steps for moving this work forward,” Director of Media Relations Wesley Hester told The College Fix.

The reparations initiative, which is listed under the report’s “Healing + Repair” section, calls on the university to launch a “Pay Our Debts Reparative Scholarship Program.”

“Recognize the descendants of enslaved laborers who built and maintained the University by working with the Alumni Association to create scholarships for both degree and nondegree education,” the report advises.

UVa’s spokesman told The Fix the racial equity task force worked with students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Charlottesville community to come up with the recommendations.

“That examination led to the development of the report, which includes a set of recommendations for steps to improve racial equity at UVA,” he said.

The report does not specify how much financial support the school would give the descendants, nor how the university plans to identify individuals who are eligible to receive such funding.

As part of the effort, the school would raise funds for both the slave descendants as well as “Black and other underrepresented Virginians who have suffered from systematic racial disadvantages over the past two centuries, with a particular recognition for descendants of the enslaved laborers who built or sustained the university through the Jim Crow era (1819-1968),” the report states.

The other 11 task force recommendations include investing more money into diversity and inclusion infrastructure and initiatives on campus, admitting and hiring more students and faculty of color, and beefing up “antiracist” education efforts.

But not everyone supports the ideas.

The Virginia-based public policy site Bacon’s Rebellion criticized the task force’s recommendations in a recent article, accusing them of seeking to replace critical thinking with “Leftist dogma.”

“The report assumes that UVa must take on the burden of rectifying inequities that are, in fact, beyond its ability to rectify, through what amounts to reverse racism,” the site argues.

“Nor does ‘Audacious Future’ acknowledge pervasive efforts over the past 60 years that the federal government, state governments, schools, universities, philanthropies, businesses and other institutions have made to address racial inequities. The authors of the report live in a bizarre bubble hermetically sealed from the real world.”

The report currently remains under review in President Ryan’s office.

MORE: Georgetown reluctant to implement student slavery reparations vote

IMAGE: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.

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Jackson Walker -- University of Wisconsin Madison