CW: This article discusses sexual misconduct on campus. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
Georgetown University rescinded all honorifics from former Provost J. Donald Freeze, S.J., following allegations of sexual misconduct from an alumnus.
On June 11, President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) sent a universitywide email regarding allegations from a former undergraduate student that Freeze forced him to engage in nonconsensual kissing and touching. In response to this news, the university has revoked all honorifics awarded to Freeze, including an honorary degree granted in 1991. Freeze worked at Georgetown from 1971 to 1991, serving as assistant dean before he was named provost in 1979.
“We are grateful to the alumnus who came forward with his experiences and we condemn in the strongest possible terms any clergy abuse,” DeGioia wrote in a universitywide email.
To address these allegations, DeGioia has established a working group of the board of directors, a subset of the board that will oversee the university’s response. The Working Group will be led by DeGioia and staffed by three Georgetown graduates, including Thomas A. Reynolds III (GSB ’74), chair-elect of the board of directors. The working group has begun work with the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus, an organization that assigns Jesuits to Georgetown and other East Coast schools, to increase transparency and communication between the two organizations.
DeGioia wrote that the university hopes to address sexual assault policies to better uplift survivors.
“We see these steps as the continuation but not the end of our work, and we are committed to continuing to partner with the alumnus to ensure that not only University policies but also Province policies are as strong as possible in supporting survivors,” DeGioia wrote.
The USA East Province did not respond to The Hoya’s request for comment in time for publication.
DeGioia’s email brings to light the 16th publicly known, Georgetown-affiliated priest or nun implicated in a sexual misconduct case. In 2019, The Hoya reported on 13 priests and one nun who were credibly accused of sexual abuse. The 15th, Fr. Alvaro Ribeiro, S.J., was accused of sexual harassment while teaching at Georgetown from 1992 to 2010.
Previously, in February 2019, the university rescinded Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s honorary degree after he was expelled from the priesthood for sexual abuse. This decision came after The New York Times reported allegations of sexual abuse against McCarrick in June 2018. In the subsequent months, Catholic student groups on campus advocated for the university to condemn McCarrick.
Degioia wrote that Georgetown has prioritized preventing sexual abuse from clergy members in recent decades.
“The safety of the Georgetown community is our first priority. In the years since Father Freeze was Provost, we have implemented strong policies and procedures to provide support for sexual abuse survivors, including survivors of clergy sex abuse, and programs to safeguard our community from sexual misconduct of any kind by any member of our University,” Degioia wrote.
Individuals can report sexual misconduct by a Jesuit by contacting the province’s victim advocate at [email protected]
Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Service (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). Individuals can also report sexual misconduct by a Jesuit by contacting the province’s victim advocate at [email protected] 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.
Carole Gates says
Was this done in response to one allegation from an alumnus? What evidence does Georgetown have, if any, to substantiate this allegation?
Surely, a man who is dead and cannot defend himself should not be stripped of his life’s work without evidence/substantion?