In response to recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., University President John J. DeGioia, Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J. and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson sent out campus-wide emails to express respect for freedom of expression and encourage discussion within the Georgetown community.
Protests erupted throughout the nation after the St. Louis grand jury’s Nov. 24 decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and the Staten Island grand jury’s Dec. 3 decision not to indict a white New York police officer in the death by chokehold of unarmed black man Eric Garner.
“Recent events in our country have brought frustration and sadness, anger and despair, as grand juries in two different American cities have shined a bright light on the enduring fault line of our Republic — the persistent legacy of segregation, discrimination, inequality: of injustice. The fabric that we think of as America seems to be fraying,” DeGioia wrote in his email, which was sent Wednesday afternoon.
Over 200 Georgetown students have participated in protests in the past two weeks, including a Week of Action hosted by the Georgetown University Black Leadership Forum. The week, which included a walk-out, HIV screening, a letter writing campaign to Michael Brown’s family and communication with elected officials about police brutality. The week ended with a “die-in” during the annual Christmas tree lighting in Dahlgren Quad on Friday. Students chanted, “No justice, no peace,” “I can’t breathe” and “Black lives matter” before dispersing.
O’Brien and Olson said that they are proud of the community’s efforts to draw attention to injustice in the nation.
“As a Catholic and Jesuit University, we are a community that respects dialogue, affirms the dignity of every individual and respects the rights of freedom of expression and thought,” O’Brien and Olson wrote in an email sent Friday. “In this moment, we are proud of our students, for your mutual respect for each other and your commitment to improving our campus, our nation and the common good.”
DeGioia encouraged students to continue to participate in dialogue about the recent events after they return from winter break.
“Let us use the time during this coming holy season to reflect on the experiences of these past months and to consider again the responsibilities of citizenship—the bonds we share with one another,” DeGioia wrote. “And when we return, let us commit ourselves to continuing these conversations and dialogue and engage in the work of restoring the faith and trust necessary for realizing our promise as a people.”