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80 percent of Brown University students vote for reparations to descendants of enslaved people

80 percent of Brown University students vote for reparations to descendants of enslaved people
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More than 80 percent of Brown University students voted in support of reparations for descendants of slaves affiliated with the school and its founders, the latest move by members of the university to acknowledge its history with the slave trade. 

The Friday vote, organized by the Undergraduate Council of Students, included two referendums on reparations, one calling for the university to identify the descendants of enslaved Africans affiliated with the university and the Brown family, and the other arguing that Brown should provide reparations to those descendants. 

According to NBC News, more than 2,000 of Brown’s 7,000 undergraduate students participated in the vote, with 89 percent supporting the first referendum, and 85 percent backing the second. 

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The referendums called for reparations in a variety of forms. According to a Facebook post from the Council of Students, reparations for identified individuals could include preferential admission to descendants of slaves applying to the university, direct funds for the descendants and “further recognition of the slave trade and how it interfaces with their lives.” 

For descendant communities, the student group said reparations could take the form of targeted investment, community engagement programs, recruitment efforts at local high schools with large Black populations, building partnerships with other universities near communities with slavery descendants, as well as increased scholarships and attention to these communities. 

The council president, Jason Carroll, who is a descendant of slaves on both sides of his family, told CNN that the vote was prompted by a "renewed attention of anti-Blackness here in the U.S."

"We have a whole new direction as a nation, a whole new understanding of Black advocacy,” Carroll explained. “I think before this past summer saying you support Black Lives Matter was honestly somewhat controversial.” 

"It wasn't until the murder of Mr. [George] Floyd and the protests last summer that it became something that was mainstream enough that universities like Brown would say it,” he added. 

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Carroll said that he hopes the vote will put pressure on the university to direct tangible action in support of slave descendants. 

"The university gets to make up its own mind when it comes to the student body... but what's important is getting the word out that the vast majority of students did approve of something,” he told CNN. “The ball is in the university's court now.” 

The Ivy League school in Providence, R.I., has in recent years taken a number of steps to publicly recognize its ties to slavery, including in a 2006 report that established that members of the school’s namesake Brown family took several trips to Africa to purchase slaves and bring them back to the U.S. 

The report, released by the 2003-formed Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, included within it several recommendations on promoting diversity and inclusion. The report has also been integrated into the university’s curriculum, and is included in several classes in the Department of Africana Studies.