Georgetown University began a search for candidates to work as the librarian for collections on slavery, memory and reconciliation, a position established to support the university’s engagement with its historical role in the institution of slavery.
The librarian will work with individuals and organizations at Georgetown and other institutions to address contemporary issues about the effects of slavery, according to the online job posting. The job position comes several months after 66.1% of students voted “yes” to the GU272 referendum, which called for Georgetown administrators to add a $27.20 semesterly fee to students’ tuition and had a 57.9 percent turnout. The fee would benefit the descendants of the GU272, 272 enslaved people sold by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus in 1838 to provide financial support for the university.
Despite the early August job posting, the university is still at the beginning of its search for candidates for the position, according to Meg Oakley (LAW ’87), acting associate Georgetown University librarian for scholarly resources and services.
“The idea for this position was formed several years ago as the Library was exploring how we could best support the initiatives identified in the Report of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation,” Oakley wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The search is in the early stages, so we are still collecting resumes.”
The Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation was formed in fall 2015 by the university to facilitate dialogue in the Georgetown community about the legacies of slavery and to outline recommendations for future university efforts, according to the group’s website. In the summer of 2016, the working group submitted its report and list of recommendations, including strengthening Georgetown’s library and special collections on genealogical work and racial justice, according to University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95).
The search for the librarian also demonstrates the university’s aim to solidify its commitment to descendants of the GU272, according to Elsa Barraza Mendoza, assistant curator of the Georgetown Slavery Archive and sixth-year doctoral student.
“I think this hire shows the university’s intention to institutionalize its work on slavery and racial justice,” Mendoza wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Hopefully, once the college hires someone, they will introduce them to students, the GU272 descendant community, and faculty. Collaboration is essential for this job.”
The job posting for the librarian, which was first listed in August, outlines the importance of outreach between the librarian and Georgetown students, faculty and those who may be descendants of the enslaved people owned by Georgetown.
“The incumbent also collaborates with individuals, departments, and centers to address contemporary issues related to the legacies of slavery, such as our nation’s system of mass incarceration, unlawful discrimination, unfair housing, unemployment, workers’ rights, and health disparities,” the job posting said.
The librarian will support current initiatives as well as develop new programs to assist the university’s acknowledgment of Georgetown’s historical role in the institution of slavery, according to Oakley.
“The Librarian will also work with others to expand our collections, foster relationships and collaborate with the wider community of universities, libraries, and archives that support the study of slavery,” Oakley wrote.
Qualified candidates for the position must have a master’s degree in library science from an institution accredited by the American Library Association and be knowledgeable about African American history, according to the posting.
The university’s board of directors also discussed the results of the referendum earlier this summer. At its June meeting, the board of directors demonstrated a willingness to discuss the referendum’s results, but did not hold a vote on whether to implement the fee that was proposed in the referendum. Students for GU272 also released a Facebook statement in August detailing the questions raised by the university’s board of directors.
During the summer of 2019, the GU272 advocacy team met with Georgetown administrators to discuss the referendum’s results and consider its implementation, according to an Aug. 25 Facebook post.
“While university administrators have repeatedly articulated their commitment to continued dialogue, they have failed to clarify tangible steps forward,” the GU272 advocacy team wrote in the post. “This measure was democratically voted on and approved by the student body, and we as students must continue to hold the administration responsible for implementing the referendum in a timely manner.”
The article was updated on Sept. 4 to include context on the voter turnout for the GU272 referendum.