Georgetown University revoked the room reservation for an abortion education workshop planned by pro-abortion rights student group H*yas for Choice on Jan. 21, forcing the event to take place off campus.
HFC received an email from the university saying that the room reservation had been retracted Jan. 20. President of HFC Talia Parker (COL ’20) then attempted to rebook the room, but received another email from the Center of Student Engagement asking to meet. At this meeting, Parker and Vice President of HFC Chad Gasman (COL ’20) were told that the workshop could not be held on campus.
After the university’s revocation of HFC’s room reservation, HFC decided to host the workshop at a downtown Washington, D.C., location instead and offered to cover transportation costs for students who still wished to attend, according to a Jan. 21 Facebook post from HFC announcing the location change.
As a Jesuit institution, Georgetown does not allow abortion demonstrations on campus, according to a university spokesperson.
“Consistent with our Catholic and Jesuit identity, Georgetown University does not support or allow for the demonstration or training of abortion procedures in any classroom or reservable space on our campus,” the university spokesperson said. “The student organizers of a planned event were notified that the ‘Papaya Workshop’ was not permitted to take place in reservable campus spaces.”
Student groups that directly and substantially advocate positions inconsistent with Roman Catholic moral tradition are not eligible to receive university funding or reserve university spaces, according to Georgetown’s Access to Benefits policy, which identifies benefits granted to student organizations in addition to stipulating criteria that student organizations must meet to be granted these benefits.
Although HFC is an unrecognized student group, it should still receive equal protection under Georgetown’s Speech and Expression Policy, which promotes the ideal of free discourse, according to Parker.
“I believe that in cancelling our room reservation based on the content of our event, Georgetown undoubtedly violated the free speech policy,” Parker wrote. “The free speech policy is meant to protect students and faculty from censorship based on Catholic values. If everything that happened on Georgetown’s campus had to comply with Catholic doctrine, we would not have GU Pride or the LGBTQ Center, for example.”
GU Right to Life, a student organization which works to protect human life from conception to natural death, expressed support for the university’s decision to cancel the workshop in a statement on Facebook on Jan. 22. The cancellation of the workshop demonstrates the university’s continued dedication to the anti-abortion cause, according to President of Right to Life Flo Martinez Addiego (COL ’20).
“The attempt to host the ‘Papaya Workshop’ on campus was incredibly disheartening given that it aimed to dehumanize and normalize the killing of the pre-born,” Etscorn wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We commend the University for their commitment to the defense of the dignity of human life by preventing this workshop from occurring on campus.”
Last year, the university prevented another unrecognized graduate student group, Medical Students for Choice, from hosting a “Papaya Workshop” at the School for Medicine.
The university’s decision to revoke the room reservation for the workshop adheres to the Catholic values that the university has always upheld, according to Etscorn.
“The decision the University made was consistent with their response on the medical campus when med students in 2019 tried to have a similar event and Dean Mitchell cancelled it,” Etscorn wrote. “We do not believe that this infringes on HFCs free speech ability because Georgetown is Catholic, Jesuit institution and as a result upholds teachings that are consistent with its identity.”
HFC has hosted many events on campus in the past, and the university has not previously prohibited the group from reserving rooms for any event, according to Parker. The university’s decision to stop the event from taking place on campus was unacceptable, according to Parker.
“Since I have been a part of H*yas for Choice (for the past 4 years), I don’t think Georgetown has ever cancelled one of our room reservations like this,” Parker wrote in an email to The Hoya. “While H*yas for Choice is an unrecognized organization, we have rights as students that are supposed to protect us from what the university did.”
This article has been updated to correctly attribute a quotation and clarify the mission of GURTL.