Commentary Religion

Why Is Georgetown University Denying Freedom of Speech and Assembly? A Letter to the President

Erin Matson

On September 22, Georgetown University campus police removed from outside the school's front gates a small group of students who had been peacefully advocating for reproductive rights, women's rights, and equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.

Note: Rewire Editor at Large and Georgetown alum Erin Matson sent this letter in response to an incident concerning abortion rights and free speech that took place near campus on September 22. 

September 29, 2014

President John J. DeGioia
Georgetown University
Office of the President
204 Healy Hall
37th and O Streets, NW
Washington, D.C. 20057

Dear President DeGioia:

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We the undersigned 232 Georgetown University alumni are writing to express our dismay and strong concern regarding campus police’s September 22 removal of a small, peaceful group of students, representing H*yas for Choice, from a public sidewalk just outside the front gates.

In January, police removed students similarly tabling for H*yas for Choice from an on-campus location, ordering them to relocate to the very sidewalk from which they were removed last Monday. On both occasions, the students were quietly presenting an alternative view to official church teachings by advocating for reproductive rights, women’s rights, and equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.

These issues matter. They are both moral and practical. This is an age of social change and political polarization on issues pertaining to sexuality and human rights, on both a national and international scale.

Georgetown has long played a leadership role in policy debates as the premier institution of higher learning in our nation’s capital. It can no longer do so if only one view may be stated.

Further, this is a unique moment within the Catholic Church. Our first Jesuit pope has set a fresh tone. Many listened closely when Pope Francis indicated this view as pertains to abortion and gay rights: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules … We have to find a new balance.”

We the undersigned 232 alumni take the view that Georgetown should allow its students to take part in these discussions. We believe in open dialogue and debate.

In May of this year, the university revised its speech and expression policy to designate speech zones on campus. While this effort may have been designed to give clarity as to where H*yas for Choice and other unsponsored student groups may express their views, recent events demonstrate that such an objective has not been achieved. The designation of free speech zones in itself serves to segregate and stigmatize certain speakers. We also take concern with this most recent removal of speech from a public sidewalk in Washington, D.C.

Respectfully, we are requesting an affirmation that H*yas for Choice will be permitted to peacefully dialogue in the future.

Sincerely,

Sarah Audelo, SFS 2006
Melissa Adams, COL 2012
Sara Ainsworth, SFS 2014, L 2017
Arturo Altamirano, COL 2014
Jessica Ann, SFS 2014
Kate Appleton, COL 2003
Sara Appleton, COL 2012
Deanna Arthur, SFS 2014
Amy Baer, CAS 1988
Jonathan Balloch, COL 2011
Michael Balsan, COL 2012
Michael Barclay, COL 2012
Johanna Barron, COL 2010
Ksenya Belooussova, SFS 2014
Tyler Bilbo, COL 2012
Jordyne Blaise, COL 2006, L 2010
Alex Bozzette, SFS 2012
Ashley Bradylyons, SFS 2012
Jordan Braunfeld, COL 2014
Laura Brayton, MSB 2013
Peter Brigham, SFS 2014
Jheanelle Brown, SFS 2010
John Bufe, COL 2011, GS 2012
Elizabeth Buffone, COL 2014
Nikita Buley, MSB 2014
Gina Bull, SFS 2012
Donald F. Burke, III, MSB 2010
Robert Byrne, COL 2012
Rachel Calvert, COL 2014
Toby Campion, COL 2013
Kaitlin Carano, COL 2013
Juan Felipe Cardona, SFS 2014
Carolyn Junttila Carson, COL 2013
Mary Cass, COL 2012
Caitlin Cassidy, COL 2011
Michelle Cassidy, COL 2013
McKenzie Cato, COL 2012
Christina Cauterucci, COL 2010, SCS 2014
Irene Cavros, SFS 2014
Camila Chaudron, COL 2012
Soraya Chemaly, COL 1988
Celeste Chen, COL 2014
Laurel Chor, NHS 2012
Sophia Chung, COL 2014
Jonathan Cohn, COL 2010
Rachel S. Cohen, COL 2009
Madeline Elizabeth Collins, COL 2013
Elizabeth Cooper-Chrismon, SFS 2013
Bridget Copes, COL 2009
Jessica Corsi, SFS 2004
Bobby Courtney, COL 2011
Jessica Craige, SFS 2014
Christina Crisostomo, SFS 2013
Nicole Cronin, SFS 2010
Randy Crooks, SFS 2013
Frances Davila, SFS 2010
Catherine DeGennaro, COL 2013
Carlos DeLaTorre, COL 2013
Michael Deneen, COL 2014
Amelia Di Stefano, COL (FLL) 2012
Ellie DiBerardino, COL 2013
Kelly Differding, COL 2010
Zoe Disselkoen, SFS 2014
Amanda Dominguez, SFS 2014
Zosia Dunn, COL 2014
Kate Dylewsky, COL 2013
Victoria Edel, COL 2014
Mo Elleithee, SFS 1994
Ceyda Erten, SFS 2013
Joanne Esteban, SFS 2014
Gillian Evans, SFS 2012
Katherine Everitt, COL 2013
Claire Sunderland Ferguson, SFS 2013
Lawson Ferguson, SFS 2012, MSFS 2016
Guadalupe Fernandez, SFS 2014
Leigh Finnegan, COL 2013
Heather Flaherty, COL 2014
Lisa Frank, COL 2013
Alex Freeman, COL 2014
Stephanie Frenel, SFS 2012
Natalie Gallagher, COL 2013
Maya Gebeily, SFS 2013
Petar Georgiev, NHS 2013
Richa Goyal, SFS 2013
Leslie Gordon, COL 2009
Madelyne Greene, COL 2010
Joyce Gresko, L 2008
Elizabeth Gromet, COL 2014
Francisco J. Gutierrez, MSB 2013
Lanier Hagerty, SFS 2014
Rebecca Harris, MSB 2002
Brittany Harwood, SFS 2013
Rocio Hernandez, SFS 2011
Sarah David Heydemann, COL 2009
Haley Hirzel, COL 2014
Tanisha Humphrey, COL 2012
Kaan Inan, SFS 2014
Lina Jamis, COL 2012
Eun Sun Jang, SFS 2013
Charlotte Japp, COL 2013
Blake E Johnson, COL 2014
Sebastian Johnson, COL 2010
Ann Jung, SFS 2014
Upasana Kaku, SFS 2013
Codie Kane, COL 2012
Joe Kapusnick, SFS 2010
Sean Keady, SFS 2013
Jackie Kelley, COL 2007
Sean Kelly, SFS 2013
Anne Kenslea, COL 2013
Megan Kirby, COL 2012
Alisha Kramer, COL 2012
Samantha Kubek, COL 2013
Akari Kubo, SFS 2014
Catherine Kulick, COL 2014
Christian Lambert, SFS 2013
Capri LaRocca, SFS 2013
Nick Laskowski, COL 2003
Margaret Laush, SFS 2014
Jessica Lee, COL 2005
Brittanie Leibold, COL 2013
Taylor Lescallette, SFS 2012
Phoebe Lett, COL 2013
Zoe Lillian, COL 2013
Michael Lindvall, SFS 2013
Shiouyu Theresa Lou, SFS 2014
Jenna Lowenstein, COL 2009
Michael Madoff, SFS 2013
Kara Mahoney, COL 2007
Dr. Meredith M. Malburne-Wade, GS 2003
Andrew Malzberg, COL 2011
Elisa Manrique, COL 2014
Natalia Margolis, SFS 2013
Ian Martinez, GS 2004
Erin Matson, COL 2002
Benjamin McAfee, SFS 2012
Melissa McClure, COL 2013
Morgan McDaniel, SFS 2013
Chase Meacham, COL 2014
Evan Milberg, SCS 2013
Alex Miller, COL 2011
Cynthia Miller, COL 2002
Melissa Miller, COL 2011
Rehana Mohammed, SFS 2012
Shaella Morales, COL 2014
Rebecca Moses, COL 2012
Megha Motgi, SFS 2014
Anjani Nadadur, SFS 2012
Laura Narefsky, COL 2014
Jessica Natoli, COL 2014
Alfonso Fernández Navas, COL 2014
Eric Nemarich, COL 2014
Andrew Nolen, COL 2004
Anna Northrup (nee Johansson), COL 2006
Meghan O’Hearn, COL 2012
Rena Pacheco-Theard, SFS 2007
Keerat Pannu, SFS 2010
Irma Pérez, COL 2004
Zenen Jaimes Perez, SFS 2013
Emily Perkins, COL 2014
Hanna Perry, COL 2013
Alyssa Peterson, COL 2014
Hashim K. Pipkin, COL 2010
Allison Prescott, COL 2014
Liana Preudhomme, COL 2014
Caterina Profaci, COL 2012
Jennifer Ortiz Quezada, SFS 2013
Lauren Reese, COL 2012
Kate Reott, SFS 2013
Helah Robinson, SFS 2009
Aliz Rozell, SFS 2011
John Russell, COL 2009
Jenna Sackler, SFS 2014
Morgan Salomon, NHS 2012
Maria-Theresa Sanchez, SFS 2014
Talia Sandwick, COL 2009
Benjamin Santucci, SFS 2013
James Saucedo, MSB 2013
Kelly Sawyers, COL 2011
Gavin Schalliol, MAAS 2014
Mara Schechter, COL 2011
Jacob Schindler, SFS 2012
Emily Schuster, COL 2013
Katherina Shabalov, NHS 2014
Catherine Shi, MSB 2013
Beth Shook, COL 2009
Laura Shrum, NHS 2014
Deepa Sivarajan, COL 2012
Alison Smith, COL 2013
Jessica Smith, COL 2014
Daniel Solomon, SFS 2013
Colin Soper, COL 2012
Katherine Spiegel, COL 2014
Liam Stack, COL 2005
Cole Stangler, SFS 2013
Adele Stewart, NHS 2013
Natarajan Subramanian, SFS 2012
Marie Sullivan, COL 2014
Ariel Tabachnik, COL 2014
Adam Talbot, COL 2012
Neesha Tambe, COL 2013
Shuo Yan Tan, SFS 2012
Matt Taurchini, COL 2012
Kim Tay, COL 2014
Alexandra Theobald, SFS 2012
Sophia Topulos, COL 2012
Claudia Triana, SFS 2011
Michael Tubman, SFS 2003
Kat Tuckett, COL 2011
Madhuri Vairapandi, COL 2014
Alexandra Van Dine, SFS 2014
Joseph Vandegriff, COL 2014
Kalia Vang, COL 2013
Sarah Vazquez, COL 2013
Salome Viljoen, COL 2011
Allie Villarreal, COL 2012
Sara Wallace-Keeshen, SFS 2008
Mary Nancy Walter, COL 2014
Margaret Wardell, SFS 2014
Alyssa Warren, SFS 2012
Kelsey Warrick, COL 2014
Jared Watkins, COL 2011
Jasmine Wee, SFS 2013
Maura Weigel, COL 2010
Corey Wells, COL 2014
Taylor Wettach, SFS 2013
Claire Wheeler, COL 2012
Elspeth Williams, SFS 2008
Michael Wilson, COL 2005
Madeline Wiseman, COL 2013
Colleen Wood, SFS 2014
Ceecee Yao, COL 2013

Copies sent to:

Dr. Todd Olson
Dr. Jeanne Lord
Council Member David Grosso, L 2001

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