Georgetown University Police Department Chief Jay Gruber said that the officer who asked H*yas for Choice to move its table from an off-campus sidewalk on 37th and O streets NW on Monday afternoon acted in violation of the university’s speech and expression policy.
H*yas for Choice chose to table that day in silent protest of an event on campus bestowing an honorary degree upon Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, since the group opposes Wuerl’s opinions on women’s health and LGBTQ rights.
“One of our officers mistakenly asked students to move from 37th and O Streets,” Gruber wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It was a miscommunication. I have apologized to the students.”
H*yas for Choice has previously been allowed to table outside of the front gates. After group members set up a table in Healy Circle during the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life last January, GUPD relocated them to the same spot on the public sidewalk.
According to Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, the administration plans to work with students to ensure that free speech policies are followed in the future.
“I know Chief Gruber has said this was a miscommunication with GUPD and a mistake,” Olson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “He has apologized. We will continue to work with all members of our university community to ensure our Speech and Expression policies are followed.”
H*yas for Choice President Abby Grace (SFS ’16) said that although Gruber admitted fault, he failed to characterize the type of miscommunication that occurred and thus downplayed the problem.
“Jay Gruber, in his email to us, acknowledged it was public property, so I think that just objectively, they’re correct by saying it was an error,” Grace said. “I think that it is rather regrettable that they framed it as a miscommunication rather than a clear breach in policy, because I think this communication implies that H*yas for Choice was in miscommunication with officers, [when] rather it was officers miscommunicating with each other.”
Grace will attend a Speech and Expression Committee meeting Friday, and said she will tell the story and push for policy enforcement.
“I think that we’re coming to share the facts and discuss what happened. I think that the community itself has a few recommendations lined up,” Grace said. “[We hope for] correct enforcement of the policy. … A policy means nothing if it’s not backed up by actions, so I’m hoping for correct application.”
Georgetown University Student Association President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) and Vice President Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) will also work with the committee Friday. Olson, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jeanne Lord and Director of the Center for Student Engagement Erika Cohen Derr will also be in attendance.
“Omika and I are dismayed to learn of the latest confrontation between H*yas for Choice and the GUPD,” Tezel wrote in a statement. “What happened yesterday appears to be a clear violation of the [memorandum of understanding] reached between GUSA leadership and Dr. Olson last semester. We look forward to working with the Speech and Expression Committee to ensure that this is resolved in an appropriate manner.”