From 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. today, a group of six students held firm ground in Red Square. “Georgetown is Institutionally Racist,” one of their signs read. Another sign listed the percentages of students on campus of different races, followed by the phrase “≠ Diversity.”
These students are part of a new independent group on campus, GLUE, or Georgetown Leaders for Unity and Equity. With six board members and about 15 to 20 students in attendance at weekly meetings, GLUE plans to hold discussions every Thursday on race, diversity, and gender at Georgetown. The group will congregate in Red Square tomorrow and Thursday between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. to inform people on this Thursday’s dialogue over the question: Is Georgetown institutionally racist?
A GLUE member in Red Square, Caroline Rosenfield (COL, ’14), said the group was founded last year by seniors. The group participated in a campaign in Red Square to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin and attended a rally in D.C. with GU Occupy and Georgetown’s chapter of the NAACP. “The discussion this week is whether or not [Georgetown] promotes segregation through the systems and institutions that it lays out for students coming to Georgetown,” Rosenfield said. ”Even within our group, there is back and forth about it.”
Rosenfield cited “Hoya Saxa Weekend” as a primary debate among members of GLUE. Hoya Saxa Weekend is an event hosted by the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, run parallel to GAAP weekend and exclusively for students of color. “I’m not sure how many students they take each year but it’s not all students of color,” she said. “It’s not clear how they make these decisions but there are groups of students of color who are excluded from it…there are people who identify as black or are members of the black community who weren’t invited to the Hoya Saxa experience.”
While Rosenfield said she has not personally experienced racism at Georgetown, other GLUE members were adamant about a prevalent dichotomy between African Americans and other groups of students on campus. Renleigh James Bartlet (COL, ’15) spoke about an experience on her floor of Village C East.
“Just yesterday… I was on the VCE 7th floor, and there was a soccer game going on. We had a situation where not only were gay slurs being used because of the athletes, but there was a lot of ‘this black ass’ and a lot of the n-word which was very random. I could hear them from the hallway,” Bartlet said. “They felt entitled to use ‘black ass’ as an insult, as if my identity as a black woman is a problem…There is a lot of anti-black rhetoric on this campus…If there is a group of black guys, I have heard white women on this campus say they are scared for their lives. They will actively move out of the way.”
Another student and GLUE board member declined to comment on the event or the group’s activities.
Bartlet also claimed racism exists in the classroom. In her class with Professor William McDonald on “Criminology”, Barlet said the McDonald joked about race in a way that made her uncomfortable. “He said, ‘I don’t know, the Japanese people have done very well for themselves, I don’t know what happened to the blacks.’ There were six other black people in the class, so that was very disheartening.”
Students stopped on their way to class to ask the members of GLUE why they were there. Several students also asked to be on their email list and plan to attend Thursday’s event.
“I want to spark conversation. I want to break the silence. There’s a lot of mumbling, there’s a lot of whispering, but not a lot of discussion. If we’re going to have things like ‘Pluralism in Action’ there actually needs to be action. These things can’t end the second week of school. There has to be a constant ‘let’s reevaluate our rhetoric’, let’s understand what we can and can’t do as a person because of the systematic priviledges and the systematic disadvantages we have,” Barlet said.