Plan A members stood chained to the statue of John Carroll as other members of the group held a banner protesting Georgetown's approach to reproductive rights.
Plan A members stood chained to the statue of John Carroll as other members of the group held a banner protesting Georgetown’s approach to reproductive rights.

Supporters of Plan A: Students for Reproductive Justice chained themselves to the statue of John Carroll in Healy Circle on Saturday, successfully prompting a response from the administration to a letter sent before spring break.

The protest began shortly after noon, as Marion Cory (COL ’10), Julia Shindel (COL ’10) and Joe Parker (SFS ’10) marched into Healy Circle and removed their sweatshirts, revealing matching white Plan A t-shirs. They proceeded by chaining themselves to the statue of university founder John Carroll. About 20 other Plan A supporters joined the protest, shouting chants and passing out fliers.

“Our voices, our thoughts, our needs, have been silenced. This is unacceptable. It’s your Georgetown,” the fliers read.

At 3:20 p.m., H*yas for Choice, in solidarity with Plan A, issued a statement via e-mail announcing that “We are giving President DeGioia a deadline of 8:00 TONIGHT to take the tape off our mouths and the chains off our bodies!”

The protesters received a letter from Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, at 7:15 p.m. stating that the administration will open up dialogue with Plan A. The letter was delivered by Assistant Director of Student Programs Tanesha Stewart. Cory, one of the leaders of Plan A, said that the coalition hopes for a meeting within the next week.

This weekend marks the first of three Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program Open Houses, which welcomes prospective students to take campus tours, meet with students and faculty and experience life at Georgetown. Approximately 100 prospective students and respective family members witnessed the occurring protest as they passed through the main gates.

While it was not the original intention of the group to organize the protest around GAAP weekend, according to Plan A supporter Kristina Mitchell (COL ’10), prospective students have expressed support for the zeal of the protesters.

“The university isn’t always honest with prospective students, and if nothing we have at least gotten a positive response that the university community is active,” Mitchell said.

Many prospective students and their families had favorable responses to the protest. While they did not comment upon the message of the protesters, they were pleased to see student activism on campus.

“It gives a perspective to a potential student as to how their voices will be heard given that there is an opportunity to protest. It feels good that groups are comfortable expressing themselves to the administration,” said Lesli Adams of Anaheim, Calif., whose son, William, has not received the status of his regular decision application yet.

“It’s smart to do this during this weekend,” said Karin Wetherill from Rhode Island, whose daughter Ellen was accepted early action. “It makes a statement and I’m glad that the administration isn’t stopping them from speaking.”

Not all prospective families agreed with the objectives advocated by the protesters, however.

“I think that if you go to a Catholic college, you need to respect the school’s rules. This is what these students signed up for,” said prospective parent Bill Kelly from Boston.

Plan A also protested in Healy Circle on Friday, but moved to Red Square after being forced to leave by university officials. Unlike Red Square, the area in front of Healy Hall is not a free speech zone. On Saturday, however, they remained chained to the statue.

Bill McCoy, associate director for student programs, was present for the protest. He asked the Plan A supporters to comply with the protest policy and informed them of the risk of potential consequences. McCoy said that he was unsure of what those consequences were, as he is not on the judicial council.

At approximately 2 p.m., three members from GU Right to Life came and set up a table in front of the Plan A protesters.

“This is bad for this to happen today. This weekend is about the prospective students, and not about an agenda. It shouldn’t be hijacked by people who have different ideas . We must stand by what this school believes in,” said Joseph Knowles (COL ’13), a member of Right to Life.

Right to Life members stayed for only ten minutes, leaving after McCoy informed them of the potential consequences of protesting in Healy Circle. They stated that they could face more consequences as an official Student Activities Commission sponsored organization, as opposed to Plan A, which is not officially recognized or sponsored by the university.

“We’re going to follow the rules even if members of Plan A won’t. They will be hurt [as a result of not protesting in a free speech zone] individually, whereas we could be hurt as a group,” said member Conor Halloran (COL ’10).

The protesters originally shouted their message to passing groups and students through a megaphone, but ceased after a Department of Public Safety officer told them that this was prohibited. DPS officers present were not allowed to forcibly remove the students. One or two DPS officers regularly patrolled the circle during the afternoon in case of violence.

“Student affairs and public safety has jointly decided that it would be more challenging to remove them [the protesters],” McCoy said.

Protesters chose this specific site because of its symbolic nature.

“This statute represents that which represents pride of Georgetown. It then became something we became chained to. This is one of the most symbolic areas of Georgtown’s campus,” Cory said.

The protest occurring at the statue of John Carroll resonated personally for one prospective student touring campus today – Forrest Carroll of Baltimore, a descendant of the university founder.

“This is the right place to do it. If you’re going to make a statement, that statue certainly says something,” he said.

Plan A has demanded access to material resources, access to informational resources and the free speech regarding university’s stance towards reproductive issues.

Hoya Staff Writer Laura Engshuber contributed to this report.

**Correction:** This article originally stated that University President John J. DeGioia wrote the letter. The letter was a response from Olson.

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