Georgetown University Police Department officers removed condom envelopes from the doors of two condom representatives for H*yas for Choice early Wednesday morning in response to a report of vandalism.
According to GUPD Chief of Police Jay Gruber, the condom envelopes were removed after a resident assistant on the fifth floor of Village C West reported an incident of vandalism to GUPD.
“Upon their arrival they observed that the common space and two rooms on that floor appeared to be vandalized. This included envelopes on the doors of two rooms that had explicit images and comments written on them,” Gruber wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The envelopes and other items were removed from the doors and the incident was documented in a police report.”
Nam Sivakumar (SFS ’20), who was one of the condom representatives to have a condom envelope removed from her door, said GUPD appeared to misunderstand the condom envelopes as an act of vandalism.
Condom envelopes are envelopes posted on condom representatives’ doors – students who volunteer with H*yas for Choice to post the envelopes – that contain free condoms for any student to take.
Sivakumar said GUPD was responding to a case of vandalism on the door of another room on her floor, which was vandalized as part of a prank.
“They looked at the condom bags on my door and the door across from me, neither of which were involved in the prank, and I think they thought that they were some kind of harassment, that someone had put it up on our door without our consent or we had put it up to make fun of somebody,” Sivakumar said.
H*yas for Choice first reported the removal of the condom envelopes on the group’s Facebook page Wednesday evening.
H*yas for Choice Co-President Brinna Ludwig (NHS ’17) said that GUPD’s removal of the condom envelopes was inappropriate without prior consultation of condom representatives.
“As much as it is [our] role to support our condom rep in any way we can, you know it’s their door, it’s their property, so they should be the ones who want to initiate who should be talked to and then the ones who also want to initiate with GUPD, they should be the ones initiating it,” Ludwig said.
Georgetown University Student Association free speech policy team chair DJ Angelini (MSB ’17) said GUSA views GUPD’s response as inappropriate.
“GUPD took down the condom envelope erroneously, and it’s something that GUSA finds is a very serious issue and it’s something that will be brought up at the next speech and expression committee by myself because I think it’s something that’s important to make sure that all actors are on the same page to protect the rights of free speech for students,” Angelini said.
Condom envelopes are covered under the university’s Free Speech and Expression Policy for students to place posters of their choice on their doors, according to Angelini.
“Doors to residential rooms or apartments are considered the responsibility of the resident; students may use this space to post flyers or materials intended to express personal views,” the policy states.
Angelini said that students have the right to decorate their door with content from both recognized and unrecognized student groups.
“It doesn’t even tie into recognized versus unrecognized, that door is an extension of their right to freely express themselves, and it’s their responsibility under the speech and expression policy,” Angelini said.
Violations of the free speech and expression policy – particularly around condom envelopes – has been a problem for H*yas for Choice in the past, according to Ludwig and H*yas for Choice Co-President Emily Stephens (SFS ’17).
“Condom vandalism is something that’s definitely happened a lot, and we’ve had in the past former people have said that their envelopes have been torn off,” Stephens said. “Sometimes it’s an accident where people are super drunk and they rip it off. It’s hard to tell whether it’s malicious or accidental.”
H*yas for Choice was also prevented from tabling outside the front gates in Sept. 2014 by GUPD officers. Gruber later admitted that preventing the group from tabling was a mistake.
Ludwig said the condom envelopes’ coverage under the free speech policy has been set for years.
“This issue, in terms of free speech, has been pretty well settled for a number of years, so it’s always jarring,” Ludwig said.