This editorial discusses sexual assault on campus. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.

This fall marks the second consecutive year for which Georgetown University does not have a fully staffed Title IX office at the beginning of the academic year, indicating a lack of urgency in addressing sexual misconduct on campus. 

In July, the university promoted Samantha Berner, filling the yearlong vacancy for full-time Title IX coordinator but creating a new vacancy for a full-time Title IX investigator.

University President John J. Degioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) has said Georgetown is temporarily using an external investigator to investigate Title IX cases but did not provide a timeline for the search.

For too long, Georgetown has failed to hold itself accountable for its expressed commitment to urgency and transparency: The university must provide a timeline for hiring and continue to update students throughout the process.

A fully staffed Title IX office is essential to combating a climate of sexual misconduct and supporting survivors of sexual assault. The continued personnel vacancies do students a major disservice, especially for freshmen who are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault during this time.

The time between a student’s first arrival on campus and Thanksgiving break is the period in which a student is more likely to experience sexual assault than at any other point in their college career, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. An understaffed Title IX office during this time period for two consecutive years means half the current undergraduate population did not have sufficient university support during their most vulnerable time.

While Georgetown cannot make up for lost time in filling the Title IX office, the 15 months that have passed since the office was last fully staffed should inspire a sense of urgency in the administration. 

During the search for a Title IX coordinator, a university spokesperson wrote to The Hoya that the recruitment process can take six to 12 months. At minimum, Georgetown must commit to filling the full-time investigator position in less than a year.

Moving forward, Georgetown’s first step should be to release and commit to a tangible, swift timeline for the hiring process of a new full-time investigator. With this step, the university can ensure a level of accountability and transparency that has been sorely lacking in the past year.

The release of a timeline is a necessary especially in response to students’ repeated demands for transparency. After a year of obfuscation around the Title IX office, demands for transparency must be met.

In the past year, Georgetown has failed to announce several developments in the Title IX office, beginning with the departure of former Title IX Coordinator Laura Cutway in June 2018.

Cutway’s departure was never publicly announced to the university community and the administration did not provide public updates in the search process for her replacement.  Since Berner’s promotion to coordinator, Georgetown has yet to publicly announce her appointment. University spokesperson Rachel Pugh said in July that Berner would be introduced to the community after she assumed the role July 1 and after more students arrived on campus. 

The administration’s silence on this issue has been deafening. Georgetown cannot hide the inadequacy of its actions by refusing to communicate with the student body. 

Up to this point, Georgetown had yet to announce any timeline for the hiring process. Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Rosemary Kilkenny (LAW ’87) has promised to “move quickly” to fill the investigator role, according to a July email to The Hoya. DeGioia said the search team is “giving it their best effort” but declined to give any estimation regarding the timeline in his recent interview with The Hoya. 

A concrete timeline released to the entire Georgetown community would demonstrate that the university is prioritizing the issue, and not merely using urgency as a buzzword to placate student concerns. 

Without a timeline, the promise to “move quickly” rings empty. Students must have an explicit commitment from the university and be able to demand more urgency if Georgetown fails to follow its own timeline.

In a February editorial, this editorial board called on Georgetown to send campus-wide emails to update students on the hiring process for a Title IX coordinator, a step the university did not take. Once again, this editorial board calls for the administration to provide students updates on the search for a new Title IX investigator. 

Georgetown cannot remain silent about an office so essential to the safety and wellbeing of students. At the very least, students are owed transparency and accountability from the administration.

Resources: On-campus confidential resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-7080); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (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. at 202-742-1727.  To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s Title IX coordinator at 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.

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