Georgetown University students and graduates from the Georgetown Scholars Program have condemned a university decision to relocate the program’s office, raising concerns over accessibility and visibility.
Leaders of GSP, a program that provides support for first-generation, low-income students, were informed in January that the group was being moved from its original location in Healy Hall, Georgetown’s most recognizable building on campus, to a temporary office in the Leavey Center. Students were only made aware of the move Aug. 13, according to an email to GSP students obtained by The Hoya.
In response to the move, students began circulating a Change.org petition Aug. 30, calling on the university to reconsider its decision. As of Sept. 1, the petition had amassed almost 900 signatures.
GSP’s relocation comes as part of the university’s larger plans to consolidate the Office of Student Equity and Inclusion, which houses Georgetown programs and groups including GSP, the Women’s Center, the LGBTQ Resource Center, the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access and the Community Scholars Program, into a single location in New South basement office spaces. The relocation plan was delayed, however, after a structural engineer found structural concerns with the basement offices.
Consolidating multicultural programs on campus into a single space will be detrimental to the well-being of the students the groups serve, according to GSP student and former GUSA Senator Sheila Cruz-Morales (COL ’23).
“It’s very clear that Georgetown is just putting all the multicultural groups on campus in one small basement and clumping together, not celebrating, the difference and diverse identities that we all hold, and just kind of kicking us really to the curb, if we’re gonna be honest,” Cruz-Morales said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “I don’t think this would be happening to other clubs that are as prestigious.”
The university intends to improve student access to resources offered by groups within the OSEI through the consolidation, according to a university spokesperson.
“We are engaged in a process to determine how our campus spaces and resources can be optimized to serve students,” the spokesperson wrote. “We hear the concerns being raised as we work to bring together the student resource centers affiliated with the Office of Student Equity and Inclusion.”
Yet, students like Jasia Smith (SFS ’22), a member of the GSP Student Board, are angry.
“Our move out of Healy has been a sort of symbolic and emotional punch in the gut,” Smith wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The news is uniquely distressing considering the instability that GSPers have disproportionately confronted since the beginning of the pandemic. After a year and a half of remote learning, it’s daunting and overwhelming to come back without a permanent physical space.”
For GSP student and former GUSA Senate Speaker Melanie Cruz-Morales (COL ’23), moving the program from Healy Hall and into a lesser-known building erases first-generation, low-income students’ presence on campus.
“When you put GSP students into a space that is not to the level of what Healy symbolizes, it’s just very evident that our presence is being disregarded, disrespected and just being taken away,” Cruz-Morales said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “A lot of freshmen will be coming on campus this semester. I think it will bring a lot of disillusionment and lack of community and lack of space that these students need.”
In addition to decreasing first-generation, low-income students’ visibility, the new office location will make it logistically harder for students to access GSP resources and interact with members of the community, according to GSP graduate Rashawn Davis (COL ’14).
“Having GSP right in the center of campus I think is just incredibly accessible. I remember my freshman year and sophomore year, trying to find GSP there wasn’t an issue because we knew it was at the bottom of Healy, a very accessible place to get to, centrally located on campus,” Davis said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “GSP deserves their department space on campus. I think Healy Hall was that space.”
The university is committed to supporting first-generation, low-income students on Georgetown’s campus and their accessibility to resources, according to a university spokesperson.
“Ensuring that the Georgetown Scholars Program has a secure foundation, and can thrive in perpetuity, is a top priority for Georgetown,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We appreciate the feedback and continue to engage with students and alumni to ensure that this program can meet the needs of the students it serves.”
Regardless of its location, Davis said GSP will continue to serve students.
“GSP is going to be successful no matter where it is,” Davis said. “I think it speaks to just how great of a program that they have built, that no matter where it is, it is impactful to the students who are part of it.”