Georgetown’s Great White Whale
This past Saturday at 9:00 a.m., University President John DeGioia met with seventeen students to discuss The Hoya‘s April Fools’ Day issue, which since its publication has been the target of much criticism, the subject of a large and emotional town hall, and the cause of a 40-student sit-in at The Hoya’s Leavey office.
The students were among those who found the issue offensive and discriminatory. According Jodi Callendar (MSB `09), one of the students attending, DeGioia said during the meeting that he would address the Georgetown student body within the next few days, and is willing to host a town hall in response to student concerns (Disclosure: Jodi was formerly the head of business for the Voice, but we’re not playing faves—students from other groups involved with these issues referred Vox‘s questions to Callendar).
DeGioia plans to initially address the student body in a broadcast email. Plans from other administrators’ offices are still unclear. In an email, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson told Vox:
“We have heard from a number of people – students, staff, and parents. We have spoken with student leaders of The Hoya, and we are following up on the matter.”
In their meeting with DeGioia, Callendar said that the students explained “that this wasn’t just a black issue or a homophobia issue, that students are pretty generally pissed off.” The students represented a diverse set of student groups, including GUPride, NAACP, the United Feminists, the Protestant Student Forum, SCUnity, Black Student Alliance, the Carribean Culture Circle, MEChA, and the Solidarity Committee.
DeGioia, Callendar said, “seemed genuinely concerned, and I say ‘seemed’ because depending on who you ask …. But in my opinion he was genuinely upset that the Georgetown the students there saw wasn’t the one he knew and loved.”
DeGioia’s thoughts on student media oversight, after the jump.
Callendars’ minutes from the meeting reveal more about DeGioia’ intial response and suggest that SCUnity’s suggestions for an expanded curriculum may have found an ear with the President:
- “President DeGioia stated that no form of oversight of media outlets would be acceptable or allowed at Georgetown. He would not discuss any form of oversight.
- “President DeGioia stated that this latest problem was a “test of our community”. He stated that he would like to sort through the proposals and responses he received today in the form of the students present and the documented responses from the Thursday Emergency Town Hall meeting. He would work to help make the decentralized administration less difficult to navigate and more able to handle the proposals of the concerned students of Georgetown with agility.
- “He would like send out an email to the community at large and is willing to sit down in a town hall discussion to hear possible solutions from students.
- “President DeGioia understood that he needed to help create a curriculum and environment at Georgetown that works coherently to support its Jesuit ideals and stated that he would help do just that.”
The Hoya will host a town hall that will take place tomorrow in WGR 201-A at 9:30. Details will be included in a broadcast email later tonight, according to Max Sarinsky, Chair of The Hoya’s Board of Directors. This one will include members of The Hoya. Organizers are the process of searching for an unbiased student moderator. Six members of The Hoya’s board and staff will speak, including its Editor-in-Chief Andrew Dwulet.
Correction: Tonight’s meeting in Reiss is still geared toward a discussion of recent acts of vandalism on campus. The students planning it merely expect for The Hoya’s April Fools’ Day issue to come up in coversation.
DeGioia has made only a few public addresses to the University in the past few years, typically in response to high-profile crises at Georgetown. In early March, he appeared in the ICC Auditorium to discuss the University’s financial strategy in the face of the recession.
In October 2007, he appeared to address the string of homophobic hate crimes on Georgetown’s campus and to announce the establishment of a fully-funded LGBTQ Center, the first of its kind at any American Jesuit University. Then too, he was responding to what many students perceived as a negative culture at Georgetown which fostered discriminatory speech and action.
Update: Julie Green Bataille sent me the following message (emphasis mine, on new information):
At his request, President DeGioia met with a group of students over the weekend to hear firsthand from them their concerns expressed at a town hall meeting a couple of days earlier. The meeting lasted approximately 90 minutes and covered a range of issues including a discussion of how to work together to build a tolerant, respectful campus community, free of discrimination. President DeGioia plans to consult with university officials who work on these issues and will be back in touch with the students he met with soon. He told students he will look to address these issues with the larger campus community later this month.
Photo from the World Economic Forum‘s Flickr account under a Creative Commons license.