H*yas for Choice tabling update: Free speech policies remain unclear

Following GUPD’s removal of H*yas for Choice from Healy Circle last Monday morning, Vox contacted University administrators to clarify the University’s existing Speech and Expression Policy. The disparity between President Nate Tisa‘s (SFS ’14) and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson’s interpretations of policies and GUPD’s removal of the organization from Healy Circle has sent mixed messages to the Georgetown community.

According to Georgetown University Police Chief Jay Gruber, GUPD believed it was in accordance with current practice that limits free speech on campus.

“The officers who responded asked the group to relocate their table to Red Square or outside the main gate of campus,” Gruber said in an email to Vox. “GUPD follows the practice that allows for on-campus, outside tabling to take place in Red Square.”

Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh echoed Gruber’s belief: “We asked [H*yas for Choice] to leave, consistent with our practices regarding tabling in Healy Circle.”

These statements appear to contradict Tisa and Olson’s statements that all parts of the university are free speech zones—not just Red Square. With the H*ya’s for Choice incident, however, the administration recognizes that clarification in existing policy is necessary.

“We are looking into our implementation of the Speech and Expression policy and relevant guidelines on tabling in the weeks ahead,” said Olson.

In an email to Vox this morning, Olson further commented on the disparity between his statements at the free speech forum and GUPD’s actions: “[The administration is] currently reviewing guidelines for tabling.  It is not clear that tabling should be permitted in all locations on campus, and in practice tabling has been managed in a way that’s different from expressing views. We are still reviewing whether H*yas for Choice was or was not violating current policy.”

Photo: Hannah Halnes/Georgetown Voice

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