Members of the Georgetown community discussed changes to the university’s safety protocol, the classification of hate crimes in the Student Code of Conduct and compensation for Department of Public Safety officers at a forum hosted by the LGBTQ Resource Center last night.
The meeting followed two recent alleged anti-gay hate crimes against students. [On Oct. 27, a female student was reportedly attacked by two men after being verbally harassed based on a T-shirt supportive of gay rights she was wearing at the time](https://www.thehoya.com/news/student-allegedly-assaulted-bias-incident-tuesday/). [On Nov. 1, it was reported that a male suspect physically assaulted a student after repeatedly asking the victim, “Are you a homo?”](https://www.thehoya.com/news/student-assaulted-second-bias-related-incident-week/)
The next day, LGBTQ Resource Center Director Shiva Subbaraman found a note containing a slur directed at her on the door of the center in the Leavey Center. [According to DPS, the note read, “Homo go home to India.”](https://www.thehoya.com/news/dps-blotter-101/)
“It has been a difficult week for many of us. And yet, it has been a time of gathering [and] sharing,” Subbaraman said. “We gather here because we know we are not different.”
Representatives of the Division of Student Affairs, the Georgetown University Student Association, the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action, the Student Safety Advisory Board and DPS attended the meeting.
On Wednesday, over 40 students and members of GU Pride, the Graduate Studies Committee, the Asian American Student Association, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de AztlÃ¡n de Georgetown, the Jewish Student Association, Georgetown’s chapter of the NAACP and other student groups met to vote on issues they wanted to present to the university’s administration.
Donald Burke (MSB ’11) served as the student representative to present the concerns raised at Wednesday’s meeting. He said many students were concerned about how hate crimes are classified and punished on campus.
“The Code of Conduct is, at best, questionable,” Burke said. “The students want to hear from the administration about what specifically constitutes a hate crime.
“We changed the Code of Student Conduct to make the presence of bias an aggravating factor [in 2004],” Olson said. “We are very much aware of recent legislation coming out of GUSA . that suggests a different direction.”
GUSA Senate Speaker Adam Talbot (COL ’12) said GUSA is discussing changing the student code of conduct so that hate crimes are categorized as type-C violations.
“We want hate crimes to be comparable to a theft, assault or sexual assault,” Talbot said on Wednesday.
Burke said the university also needs to make improvements in safety procedures.
Students raised concerns about the lack of blue-light call boxes on campus, as well as the scarce use of the HOYAlert campus emergency notification system.
Vice President for Student Safety Rocco DelMonaco said the university has found that most calls made to DPS are made through cell phones, and it is therefore weighing the costs and benefits of adding more call boxes.
In response to concerns about the HOYAlert system, DelMonaco said most events only warrant Public Safety Alerts.
“If we send out too many things on HOYAlert, although they may be important, timely, and useful, when something comes out that truly needs to be addressed . its effectiveness goes down,” DelMonaco said.
In response to students’ concerns that Public Safety Alerts are often vague and biased, DelMonaco said DPS uses general law-enforcement terms.
“The reports that go out are what is reported to DPS. We don’t make up anything; we don’t filter it,” DelMonaco said.
Burke also raised the issue of compensation for DPS officers.
“The students agree wholeheartedly that a well-paid and well-respected police force, with a strong understanding of the Georgetown community, is absolutely necessary and vital,” he said. “It is a little-known fact that DPS is the lowest-paid police force on all campuses in the D.C. area.”
DelMonaco said the university is committed to negotiating with the DPS union, but he could not discuss details. He also said that while DPS plans to expand its video-camera surveillance system, it is not considering giving more weapons to its officers.
GU Pride members Ellen Greer (SFS ’11) and Robert Byrne (COL ’11) moderated Wednesday’s forum. Greer said the meeting was only a starting point for related discourse. “We are looking forward to this being the beginning of the conversation,” she said.
“It humbled me that many groups came together to have a real discussion on campus safety,” Byrne said of the Wednesday meeting. “What’s more is that, by the end of the evening, a body of students that would normally have competing interests had achieved consensus.”
Byrne said that though he was impressed by the meeting’s turnout, he fears that the community response will not remain as strong.
“I am wary . that the momentum we have built will fizzle away. We’re students, and academics and extracurricular activities demand a lot of us,” Byrne said. “But crime – especially misogynistic and homophobia-related crime – is not going to define my Georgetown experience, so we need to keep the conversation going with administrators.”
Kate Kauffman contributed to this report. “