This article discusses sexual assault on campus. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
The Black Survivors Coalition has launched a #GeorgetownDoesntCare campaign in protest of Georgetown University’s failure to meet demands to better support Black women and nonbinary survivors of sexual assault.
At a BSC rally Feb. 21, students gathered in Red Square before marching toward the office of University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95). Many of the students carried signs and chanted protests.
“No more silence, no more violence,” the protesters chanted.
Three days later, BSC, along with other student groups, returned to Healy Hall and staged a sit in outside DeGioia’s office. The group has staged sit-ins from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. every day since Feb. 24 to continue to call for the university to establish more resources for Black women and nonbinary survivors.
The protests come after BSC delivered a statement to the Office of the President on Jan. 27. The statement outlined a list of 10 demands, which included hiring more Black clinicians, improving the Women’s Center’s capacity for supporting sexual assault survivors and requiring all faculty and staff to undergo mandatory diversity, bias and bystander trainings. The statement also requested the university publicly respond to the demands by Jan. 31.
After BSC released its demands, the university issued a public statement on its website affirming Georgetown’s commitment to making sure campus programs and services respond to the needs of all students.
The university also sent emails directly to several board members of Black student organizations on campus Jan. 31 affirming the university’s commitment to promoting equity on campus, according to one of BSC’s organizers for the #GeorgetownDoesntCare campaign Kayla Friedland (SFS ’22). The university did not email BSC directly, however, despite being given the contact information for the group, according to Friedland.
BSC then released another statement criticizing the university’s response, because it never mentioned or addressed BSC’s demands.
The protest and sit-ins are necessary to force the university to take meaningful action regarding the needs of Black women and nonbinary survivors of sexual assault, according to Makayla Jeffries (COL ’23), one of BSC’s organizers for the #GeorgetownDoesntCare campaign.
“Let me just clarify — we don’t want to be out here sitting in the president’s office,” Jeffries said. “All of this is because it needs to be done. It’s been very clear with the bureaucratic measures or whatever polite measures people have taken to make changes, and this university hasn’t responded.”
Students have voiced concerns about the issues referenced in BSC’s statement for years. Despite these consistent demands, however, the university has still yet to adequately fulfill student needs, according to Vice President of H*yas for Choice Chad Gasman (COL ’20).
“We’ve given them exactly everything that they need to make our lives better, and they’ve shown time and time again that they’re not willing to do it because it’s too much money, or they didn’t have enough time to do it,” Gasman said. “But really, these are easy asks that can improve everyone’s lives, and they just refuse to do the simple task of getting them done.”
The university responded to the recent Healy sit-ins in a Feb. 26 email to the student body from Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Rosemary Kilkenny (LAW ’87) and Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson.
The email described how the university has responded or is planning on responding to each of BSC’s demands. In regard to the demand for more Black clinicians, the university highlighted Counseling and Psychiatric Services’ recent hiring of three new clinicians for the 2020 fall semester, two of whom are Black women, according to the email.
The university’s supposed progress in meeting BSC’s demands is not enough, according to BSC member Nile Blass (COL ’22).
“It was simply a reiteration of what was already discussed in this activist space,” Blass said. “As long as our demands aren’t met sufficiently and with relevant, tangible commitments that we know are going to go through, then we’re going to be here.”
During the Feb. 25 sit-in, BSC met with several university administrators and officials, including with CAPS Director Phil Meilman to discuss increasing mental health resources and with Georgetown University Police Department Chief of Police Jay Gruber, according to a Feb. 25 BSC Instagram story.
The university hopes to further the dialogue on the concerns BSC and other student groups have brought up through the #GeorgetownDoesntCare movement, according to a university spokesperson.
“Georgetown University takes seriously the concerns of student survivors and we are committed to learning more about their experiences both at Georgetown and outside of the university,” the university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We are committed to continuing to improve our resources so they meet the needs of all students, and work to be responsive when our campus resources fall short.”
One BSC demand that is especially pressing is the need to establish comprehensive crisis response resources that are survivor-centered and trauma-informed, given Georgetown’s high rates of sexual assault, according to Georgetown University Student Association President Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20), who attended the protest and also helped organize the #GeorgetownDoesntCare campaign.
“Mental health resources across campus, or resources for survivors of sexual assault, are just slim to none, and also folks don’t even trust them enough to engage with them,” Francis said. “It’s a very sorry state that we’re in right now, just the fact that our rates of sexual assault for undergraduates is higher than other universities is appalling.”
Among Georgetown undergraduates, 31.3% of transgender, genderqueer or nonbinary, questioning, or not listed students reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent, which is higher than the 20.3% average reported by the Association of American Universities, according to the 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct. This statistic was cited in BSC’s original statement.
The university fails to provide adequate support and resources for survivors, according to Eric Perez (COL ’23), who also attended the protest.
“When you are attacked on this campus, you are expected to be your own therapist, your own doctor, your own caretaker, and also a full-time student at the same time,” Perez said. “Under a system with adequate resources that just would not be the case.”
Resources: On-campus confidential resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-6985); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (1-844-443-5732). If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. (202-742-1727). To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s Title IX coordinator (202-687-9183) or file an online report here. Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave. NW and through H*yas for Choice. For more information, visit sexualassault.georgetown.edu.