The president of Emory University announced Thursday that the university would be offering scholarships to the “descendants of enslaved people” beginning the fall of 2022, according to The College Fix.
According to The Emory Wheel, Gregory Fenves said that the pricy private Atlanta institution had established a Descendant Endowment which will “support scholarships for two undergraduate students each year.”
The “reappointed” Task Force on Untold Stories and Disenfranchised Populations will come up with the scholarships’ eligibility criteria, Fenves noted. This task force is responsible for “reviewing opportunities for recognizing, observing and memorializing” enslaved persons and Indigenous peoples.
The creation of the scholarships is just one of the items in Fenves’s email regarding Emory’s progress in meeting the demands installed by the Coalition of Black Organizations and Clubs. The CBOC also wants Emory to:
— “reassess its policies on Open Expression to better prosecute student experiences of rhetorical discrimination by the University’s faculty,”
— “provide frequent diversity and sensitivity training to better verse faculty in the nuances of issues of identity,”
— “undedicate residential spaces and other University properties to Confederate slave holders,”
— “immediately take actions to 1) disarm Emory Police, and 2) defund the Emory Police Department.”
There appears to be no specific demand for the new scholarships from any interest group. The closest thing to such comes from Students Against Racial Inequality in 1990—the demands from which the CBOC also wants Emory to implement:
[Fenves’s] announcement also provided updated timelines for the commitments Fenves made in his Aug. 13 letter responding to CBOC’s demands.
He reported that The University Committee of Naming Honors will submit a report with a summary of its findings and potential names for re-dedication by April 1, 2021. Fenves wrote that the committee has not yet been finalized.
Fenves also provided a timeline for renovating and improving affinity spaces for students of color. He noted that some spaces will relocate to Cox Hall, and the initiative is expected to finish by August 2021.
In response to CBOC’s demands to disarm and defund the Emory Police Department, Fenves committed in the Aug. 13 letter to build “stronger alliances” between the department and the Emory community. In Thursday’s update, he noted the University’s continued work with Justice and Sustainability Associates to review EPD’s practices.
Fenves stated in August that he did not “anticipate defunding and replacing” Emory Police—a demand that has become prevalent across other campuses across the country since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
It is still unclear how how the university will be able to accurately assess which candidates have descended from slaves. Not all black people who currently live in the U.S. descended from slaves, and there were many white people who are descended from slaves. It has yet to be seen how the university will iron out the finer points of their ambitious new effort without drawing backlash from groups that may charge them with picking students based on continental ancestry.
This initiative appears to be another form of reparations—a system which seeks to repay those whose family members experienced injustices in the distant past.