After nearly three months of student-led advocacy against the move, Georgetown University announced in an Oct. 11 email that the office of the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP) will return to the iconic Healy Hall after renovations on the building’s ground floor are complete.
The Georgetown community must commend student activists’ efforts to preserve GSP’s Healy office space and remember this success to inspire future student activism.
For over 10 years, the Georgetown Scholars Program office has been in Healy. In August, the university informed GSP students the office would be relocated to a temporary space on the fourth floor of the Leavey Center. The move came as part of the university’s initiative to consolidate the Office of Student Equity & Inclusion by moving its programs and centers into the New South basement office spaces.
This initiative showed a lack of consideration for GSP students, and the university cannot continue to make decisions that result in the exclusion of students from underserved communities.
GSP’s relocation from its central office in Healy Hall decreased visibility at the university for students in the program. By contrast, Leavey’s fourth floor, where The Hoya is located, features dim hallways with uneven flooring, water-stained ceilings, dysfunctional water systems and unreliable elevators.
The university’s decision to move the office particularly troubled first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students, considering GSP’s core mission is to provide programming and support that guides these students through their time at Georgetown.
From sharing petitions to planning teach-ins, students convinced the university to restore GSP to its home, honoring the importance of the Healy location to its students and graduates. In an Aug. 30 petition calling for the university to reconsider its decision, students shared the impact the office’s prominent location has on their experience at Georgetown.
“On a campus where we didn’t belong in our socioeconomic or educational background, the program’s location in Healy was one indication that we did belong. We were proud to show our families that we had space in the most well-known Georgetown building,” the petition reads. “Our initial move into Healy propelled our participation in GSP from hesitant and embarrassed to legitimately proud, marking a clear culture shift.”
The petition, which has gained almost 1,300 signatures to date, undoubtedly played a key role in spreading awareness and garnering support.
The university’s final decision also came after student leaders in GSP and the Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) organized public protests. GUSA scheduled a teach-in for Oct. 13 and intended to host a sit-in demonstration with GSP shortly thereafter.
While these efforts effectively appealed the university’s relocation decision, the amount of effort that was necessary to ensure GSP could remain in Healy is frustrating, according to GUSA Senator Manahal Fazal (SFS ’24).
“I believe most students are happy with the outcome,” Fazal wrote in an email to The Hoya. “But I honestly believe that we shouldn’t have had to go to certain extents for the admin to listen.”
While students should not have to organize around issues like these, GSP’s return to Healy serves as a reminder of the influence students have on campus. Student activism, especially when it includes a large coalition, is undeniably powerful and deserves our recognition, support and celebration.
There is no guarantee Georgetown will always make the right decision, but we should not be hopeless. Students should remember successes like these. While it is the responsibility of the university to support its students, particularly FGLI students, the student body is also collectively responsible for caring for our peers. The petition and planned protests are a great example of student solidarity.
The resilience of those in GSP was another key element of student activism efforts, according to Anita Vazquez (SFS ’23), a member of the program.
“For so many GSPers, this was not the first time we’ve had to fight for something we believe in nor will it be the last,” Vazquez wrote in an email to The Hoya. “GSP members have had to fight to survive in an institution that has shown many times it only cares about us as a talking point to demonstrate how ‘diverse’ they are, only for them to then turn around and push us into the dark.”
The university will meet with GSP members and leaders to determine how campus spaces can best serve students in the future, according to a university spokesperson.
“We have already begun to meet with GSP constituents, beginning with GSP staff,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We will continue this process in the days and weeks to come.”
Although engaging GSP students in university planning is a step toward improving inclusion on campus, the student body at large must continue to hold the administration accountable for its disregard of FGLI students.
Fighting for GSP’s visibility and accessibility at Georgetown should not have required extensive efforts, and the university must not only consider but also care for its students from underrepresented backgrounds. At the same time, Georgetown students should honor the work of their peers and let this victory inspire further student activism.
The Hoya’s Editorial Board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion editors. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.