Our university has spent over two centuries building a respected learning community. Although Georgetown’s undergraduates are sometimes known for having too much fun (just like students at most colleges) Georgetown graduates have a marked history of positively affecting their communities. In the national mindset, Georgetown is seen as a top-tier Jesuit, Catholic school with a historic campus and a famed basketball tradition. The peddling of pot and hard drugs has not been a part of our image or culture.
In one Saturday morning, all that changed.
On that day, three students – two Georgetown freshmen and one from the University of Richmond – were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to produce dimethyltryptamine (DMT). With the arrest of a third freshman for drug-related offenses on Tuesday, the severity of last Saturday’s discovery has grown to astounding levels. One was subsequently released and cleared of all charges. The two others have been released to their parents’ custody awaiting a trial date in January.
On Tuesday, the third Georgetown freshman was taken into custody on charges of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
In response to these events, local and national media swarmed campus, capitalizing on a juicy scoop. Georgetown’s image as a prestigious, Jesuit institution has made the story of freshmen cooking up illegal drugs in their dorm room sensational. The national stories have portrayed Georgetown as an elite university with a dirty secret – a seriously inaccurate depiction of the Georgetown we know and love.
Within hours of the story breaking, national media reported a “possible meth lab” in Harbin Hall based on an article in The Washington Post. The story became one of the most read on CNN and the Post’s websites. Although the dorm-room operation turned out to be a less dangerous DMT lab, the damage was done. Georgetown’s name was associated on the web and in the minds of the public with the words “meth,”DMT” and “clandestine drug lab.”
These negative portrayals do not disappear easily. Columbia never quite shed the cloud of the violent 1968 Vietnam War protests, and Ted Kaczynski will forever haunt the grounds of Harvard. Though less damaging than either of those examples, Georgetown’s recent drug busts have the potential to harm the long-term reputation of the university.
With that in mind, it is imperative that these incidents do not come to define Georgetown in the eyes of the public. The majority of students are appalled by the incidents and we join that majority in denouncing these actions.
As students, we are as shocked as any outsider by what has happened, and it hurts us to see the dorm, the freshman class and the entire university disparaged when these incidents are so far removed from the school we have come to know.
As more information comes to light, some students have questioned how much they know about their university. This uneasiness has manifested itself through cynical snickering on campus, but it is crucial that this does not become a part of our personal view of the university. Unlike the national media reporting on a university it does not truly know, students understand their school intimately.
Georgetown has bounced back from this type of publicity before. THE HOYA reported in May 1980 that 23 Georgetown students were arrested on drug charges, the bulk of them for possession of cocaine. This drug bust has vanished from the campus memory. With time and the recovery of our community, this latest drug scandal will as well.