After months of student protests, Georgetown University finally completed a report on the investigation of the hate crime committed against LaHannah Giles (CAS ’23) 10 months ago — only to reveal that the investigation was inconclusive.
On April 29, 2022, a white male yelled racist slurs and violent threats at Giles, who is Black, shouting calls for the death of all Black people through a window in New South Hall, a first-year dormitory. At the time, Giles was sitting with their friends outside the Healey Family Student Center. Despite Giles saying they and five other witnesses identifying the perpetrator, 10 months later, the university has yet to determine the aggressor, denying Giles justice for this racist hate crime.
Georgetown University has betrayed Giles. The Editorial Board condemns both the bigotry displayed in the hate crime and the university’s failure to seek justice for Giles. We urge Georgetown to continue their commitment to meeting all of Giles’ demands, including improving institutional support for Black students, who should not have to fight for this from Georgetown in the first place.
One of Giles’ demands — the expulsion of the perpetrator — has yet to be met. The student, if found, must be prosecuted to the fullest extent for the pain and trauma they inflicted upon Giles.
On Nov. 30, Giles released their comprehensive list of demands for the university to address following the incident. These demands included action items such as expelling the perpetrator, increasing funding for the Student of Color Alliance and commissioning an internal review of Georgetown’s investigatory processes.
Recognizing that The Hoya is and has been a predominantly white institution, The Hoya and the Editorial Board are dedicated to amplifying the voices of Black students on campus. The university has neglected Giles for too long, and the Editorial Board demands justice be served for them.
Last year from Dec. 5 to Dec. 8, 2022, Giles and GU Protects Racists (GUPR), a group of student activists leading the efforts seeking justice for Giles, organized protests demanding the university publicly acknowledge the hate crime and take disciplinary action against the perpetrator.
The Institutional Diversity, Equity & Affirmative Action (IDEAA) office sent Giles the investigation about her case Feb. 7 after previously promising in private meetings to send it on Dec. 17, Jan. 31 and then Feb. 7, according to GUPR. The report revealed that the investigation was inconclusive, and the student who committed the hate crime still has yet to be officially determined or punished by the university.
(After publication a university spokesperson told The Hoya that the university never officially committed to releasing the report on these dates. The Hoya had previously asked why the report was not released on these dates, but did not receive a reply.)
Although Giles said they, along with five eyewitnesses, identified the student, the university failed to verify these claims and hold the perpetrator accountable. The university reported that the Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD) lost the surveillance video footage that helped them to bring in the student as a suspect in the first place.
Following the release of the IDEAA investigation, GUPR resumed sit-ins in Healy Hall.
“I don’t think any words could ever describe how I feel after receiving the investigation results yesterday,” Giles said in a speech at a Feb. 8 sit-in.
“I hoped that I would have a sense of relief and closure, contributing to the ending of the protests. However, instead, I received an overall feeling of hurt, disappointment, invisibility and disbelief,” Giles added.
The Editorial Board calls on students to continue to support Giles following the inconclusive results of the investigation. This includes attending sit-ins and other GUPR programming, as well as applying persistent pressure on the university to hold the university accountable in fulfilling all of Giles’ 11 demands, including holding the perpetrator responsible.
The university has acceded to some of Giles and GUPR’s demands, creating three work groups to aid in the process of implementing the changes Georgetown promised. These include separate groups committed to exploring communal spaces for underserved communities, allocating funds to the Students of Color Alliance and improving the bias reporting system. The university has committed to creating a system to guide students through bias reporting and has hired an outside expert to conduct an external review of Georgetown’s handling of the incident.
These concessions, though, do not represent the university’s previous actions in addressing the hate crime before the protests began.
In an email obtained by The Hoya, Jay Gruber, the GUPD chief of police, reached out to New South residents on Apr. 30 to inquire about the hate crime and request information from potential witnesses. Giles received no direct communication from the university until one week later on May 6, when Georgetown emailed them with mental health resources. Giles then had their first sit-down meeting with university officials on May 13, an egregiously delayed response to the incident.
Gruber’s email proves that Georgetown can respond quickly. Survivors deserve the same promptness that the university offered to potential eyewitnesses in the dorm.
Once Giles sat down with administrators, including Director of the Office of Student Conduct Judy Johnson, they not only did not receive administrative support but said they were “traumatized” by those supposed to protect them, according to Giles’ Nov. 22 Instagram post about the hate crime.
Giles recalled that Johnson created a hostile environment in which Johnson berated them for mentioning the Office of Student Conduct in a now-deleted LinkedIn post about the hate crime and told them that they were unjustified in feeling the way they did about the incident.
Giles said Johnson “betrayed, gaslit, and violated” them during the May 2022 meeting, according to Giles’ Nov. 30 press release. Johnson did not respond to The Hoya’s request for comment in time for publication.
These actions unfortunately fit into the university’s disturbing pattern throughout its response to the incident.
Georgetown defended the Office of Student Conduct in response to Giles’ allegations.
“While we cannot comment on matters involving individual students or incidents, the philosophy guiding the Office of Student Conduct is educational and grounded in our community’s mission and values,” a university spokesperson wrote to The Hoya. “We seek to understand the impact that campus life experiences have on students, as we do the work of evaluating and adjudicating potential violations of the Code of Student Conduct.”
There is still a long way to go in this fight — a fight that not only requires the university to comply with GUPR’s demands but that also advocates for the safety and well-being of Black students like Giles, who has been overlooked and unsupported by Georgetown for nearly a year.
Georgetown purports to be a “diverse community devoted to social justice, restless inquiry and respect for each person’s individual needs and talents.”
It’s time they show it.
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.
This article was updated Feb. 13 to clarify the that the university ought to continue to commit to meeting Giles and GUPR’s demands, which is the opinion of the Editorial Board.
This article has also been updated to reflect that the university did not officially commit to release the IDEAA report on Dec. 17, 2022, Jan. 13 and then Jan. 31 on paper.
This article has also been updated to reflect who provided the claim that five eyewitnesses corroborated Giles’ identification of the perpetrator.