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News, University News

UCS resolutions call for reparations, for Juneteenth to be named ‘no exercise date’

Council also motions to endorse referendum about University standardized testing policies

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Undergraduate Council of Students introduced two resolutions Wednesday evening during its last meeting of Black History Month: The first calls for the University to provide reparations to descendants of slaves impacted by Brown, and the second calls for the University to make Juneteenth a “no exercise date.” 

The Council also introduced a motion to endorse Students for Educational Equity’s referendum about standardized testing policies. 

The reparations resolution implores the University to “identify the descendants of enslaved Africans who were entangled with and/or afflicted by the University” and to provide preferential admissions and monetary reparations, including through scholarships, to identified descendants, according to the text of the resolution. 

This resolution builds upon the findings of a 2006 report by the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. The report, which details the University’s historical ties to slavery, found that “many of the assets that underwrote the University’s creation and growth derived directly and indirectly from slavery and the slave trade.” 

But the comprehensive report on the University’s fraught past did not make an attempt to identify the descendants of slaves connected to the University, said UCS President and resolution sponsor Jason Carroll ’21.

A number of other universities, including Georgetown University, have outlined plans to identify and provide reparations to the slaves harmed by their respective institutions. The resolution would compel the University to follow suit in recognition of its own history, Carroll said. 

“Directly atoning for the harm and the direct impact of the University is very important,” he continued. 

If passed, the resolution would also call for the University to consider similar reparations for members of “Native American groups indigenous to the land Brown occupies such as the Narragansett.”

Also at the meeting, UCS introduced a separate resolution calling for the University to make Juneteenth a no exercise date, which would make the day a paid annual University holiday for faculty and staff, according to the resolution text.

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated in recognition of June 19, 1865, the day federal troops arrived in Texas to announce news of emancipation to individuals who were still enslaved, a full two-and-a-half years after the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. 

Juneteenth “is considered the longest running African American holiday and celebrates Black freedom in the United States,” said Chair of Campus Life and resolution sponsor Zane Ruzicka ’23. 

In the wake of protests against police brutality last summer, the University recognized Juneteenth as “a paid University day off,” but had not committed to making it a “no exercise date” moving forward, The Herald previously reported

Not extending the recognition to future years “struck me as kind of a performative act,” Ruzicka said. “They should have made it a holiday every single year last year, as opposed to just for the one year.”

If the University were to make the holiday a permanent no exercise date, it would open up the opportunity to educate the community about the significance of Juneteenth, Parliamentarian Zanagee Artis ’22 added. 

UCS also introduced a motion to endorse SEE’s referendum about the University’s standardized testing policy. The referendum aims to gather student opinions on whether the University should pursue a test-optional admissions policy, The Herald previously reported.

If the Council votes to endorse the referendum’s aim, its endorsement will be noted on the ballot. 

In response to the motion to endorse, Chief of Staff Sam Caplan ’22 questioned what it means for the Council “to endorse a (referendum) while also pushing for public opinion to be voted on it.” 

While it is rare for UCS to endorse a referendum, such an endorsement is a way of “showing our support,” Carroll responded. 

A UCS endorsement also “puts pressure on the admin to move forward with whatever initiative or policy that we’re endorsing,” added Vice President Summer Dai ’22.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that UCS voted unanimously to endorse SEE’s referendum. In fact, the Council has not yet voted on endorsement. The Herald regrets the error.

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