Representatives of student groups from GU Pride to the Georgetown branch of the NAACP spoke at the vigil, as well as Georgetown faculty, staff, and administrators. Chris Farris and Todd Metrokin, Co-Chairs of the D.C. group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence, and Sergeant Carlos Mejia from MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liason Unit also made an appearance.
“We are here today in solidarity with the victims of these crimes,” Co-President of GU Pride Joseph Graumann (SFS ’11) said. “But solidarity is more than sympathy. It’s more than just standing by. It’s about action.”
Students at the vigil advocated a range of responses to improve student safety and address what they perceive as a campus culture that tolerates homophobia. Among the suggestions were a student community watch program and higher pay for DPS officers, as well as individual precautions like programming the DPS number into cell phones and reporting crimes when they occur.
There will be a meeting on Wednesday night at 11:00 a.m. in the ICC to discuss concrete next steps, according to the organizer of the vigil, Robert Byrne (COL’11).
The last time Georgetown saw this much activism on the part of LGBTQ students was in 2007, when anti-gay crimes sparked the creation of the LGBTQ Center.
“One of the things I was most struck by is how much things have changed in the past two years and how much they haven’t changed,” Scott Chessare (COL ’10) said at the vigil.
Chessare lamented the continued tolerance of bigotry on campus, but noted a few improvements.
“We’re no longer dealing with a recalcitrant administration,” Chissare said.
According to Olivia Chitayat (SFS ’10), having institutional support at a time like this makes a big difference to LGBTQ students. Chitayat pointed to the presence of the administration and Director of the LGBTQ Center Sivagami Subbaraman at the vigil as marked improvements in the University’s response to homophobia.
Rosemary Kilkenny, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, spoke on behalf of the administration at the vigil.
“[When] the president in 2007 launched the LGBTQ Center… it was clear that our work on this issue was not over, it was just beginning,” Kilkenny said. “Georgetown will not tolerate homophobia or any other form of discrimination.”
Subbaraman said she was satisfied with the way the University handled the proceedings.
“They didn’t try to hide things,” Subbaraman said. “I was consulted every step of the way. They’re doing everything they can, and now it’s up to us in the community.”
Jheanelle Brown (SFS ’10), President of the Georgetown Chapter of the NAACP, spoke from personal experience about changing Georgetown’s dominant culture.
“I’m used to talking to friends who are black and very religious, who say ‘I don’t agree with homosexuality,’” Brown said. “That doesn’t mean you should endorse violence or restricting the right to marry for other people. You have to have the courage to support fairness and justice for everyone.”
Photos by Kara Brandeisky.