Professors expressed concern about the Georgetown University administration’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct filed against former members of the Georgetown men’s basketball team at a Dec. 16 faculty senate meeting.
The faculty senate consists of 75 full-time faculty members from all three university campuses who advise the university president on academic and administrative issues. The senate cleared the scheduled agenda for its December meeting to discuss a letter signed by 68 faculty members in which they advocated for greater university support for survivors of sexual harassment and assault.
“Deeply disturbed by recent allegations of sexual misconduct and other forms of intimidation by and toward students on campus, as well as media coverage, we members of the faculty write to express unreservedly our support for survivors of all forms of harassment, misconduct, assault, and any other discriminatory or violent behavior,” the letter reads.
The letter was sent to University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) on Dec. 12. DeGioia had not responded to the faculty letter as of Dec. 16, according to professor Alison Games, who signed the letter.
Faculty members hope the letter will usher in campus reform of sexual misconduct policy and encourage university action, according to Katherine Benton-Cohen, a professor in the history department and signatory of the letter.
“We would like to see a shared expression of support to survivors,” Benton-Cohen said at the meeting. “We’d like to see more prominent university leadership, an actual statement from Jack DeGioia about this, and we’d like to see a more transparent policy about what athletics does in instances like this.”
Georgetown men’s basketball players Josh LeBlanc (MSB ’22), Galen Alexander (COL ’21) and Myron Gardner (COL ’23) were named in November civil complaints. A Nov. 5 civil complaint filed by a Georgetown student names LeBlanc and Alexander in allegations of burglary and harassment. A different student plaintiff filed a civil complaint against all three players Nov. 12, alleging robbery, sexual harassment and assault.
Alexander, Gardner and LeBlanc resolved the Nov. 12 complaint and signed a Consent Stay Away Order Without Admissions in a Dec. 9 hearing, an agreement stating the three players cannot contact the plaintiff or her roommates in any manner and must stay at least 50 feet away from them and their home. The Metropolitan Police Department closed two cases against LeBlanc and Alexander on Dec. 18 and made no arrests, an MPD spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
No formal disciplinary action against any of the players has been disclosed. The university does not comment on investigations of individual students due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, according to a Dec. 3 statement from Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Lee Reed.
The letter calls for the university to provide clarification on FERPA, specifically the ways in which FERPA prevents transparency in investigations of misconduct. A lack of transparency about the university’s investigation into the former players has raised concerns about possible bias due to the prestige of the men’s basketball team, according to Benton-Cohen.
“This felt very ad hoc, very high profile, and many of us felt like it’s entirely possible this could have been the men’s lacrosse team and been handled differently,” Benton-Cohen said at the meeting.
The university’s investigations of the players’ conduct followed the same processes of investigation and adjudication as those involving other students, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, who attended the faculty senate meeting.
“In this case, as we do in all cases, we were very careful to follow our policies,” Olson said at the meeting. “We were very careful to handle it in the same way on the same timelines, using the same communication mechanisms, offering the same resources to all the students involved that we do in any other case.”
The university must implement visible reforms to sufficiently address problems surrounding sexual violence and misconduct on campus, according to Benton-Cohen.
“To me it is almost sad how many times this has been reiterated — that student athletes have the same process as everyone else — because to me that is a bare minimum,” Benton-Cohen said at the meeting. “It’s not enough to say we treat student athletes like everyone else.”
Georgetown students reported low trust that campus officials would conduct a fair investigation in response to a report of sexual assault in the 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct. The university’s handling of the recent allegations has failed to alleviate student wariness about reporting sexual harassment or assault, according to Games.
“I think we know the larger context of the student mistrust in bringing forward complaints, especially women,” Games said at the meeting. “And it seems like to me what this whole process has crystallized is the absence of even better policies that might help mitigate some of that mistrust.”
Faculty and staff members under investigation for Title IX violations may be removed from the workplace at the discretion of the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action, according to the IDEAA grievance procedures. The university should look into creating similar policies for students who also represent the university as members of teams, according to the letter.
The university remains committed to addressing issues of sexual assault and misconduct and aims to provide greater transparency to the campus community, a university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“We appreciate the feedback and viewpoints of our faculty,” the university spokesperson wrote. “Georgetown University has a longstanding commitment to preventing and addressing sexual assault and misconduct through comprehensive trainings, programs and engagement with the campus community. The university will continue to promote and focus on supporting survivors.”