The university is investigating potential cyber harassment incidents by a Facebook account under the name John Carroll, after a student and the Georgetown University Student Association reported the account for multiple incidents of harassment following President-elect Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 victory.
The account sent private messages to multiple students, including Jawad Pullin (COL ’18), who received a series of messages Nov. 9 and Nov. 13 during a Facebook conversation between Pullin and the account, including messages encouraging him to take his own life.
“I’ve received follow-up messages from the account that have descended from the original comment to threats of retaliation, then blackmail, then victim blaming, then trying to clarify that is was a joke, and most recently offering a truce,” Pullin wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Pullin initially reported these incidents to the Georgetown University Police Department Nov. 9.
The account’s namesake is the university’s first president, Fr. John Carroll, S.J., who founded Georgetown in 1789. The account has made inflammatory comments on students’ posts.
GUPD is aware of the reports and is currently investigating them, according to GUPD Deputy Chief Joseph Smith.
The Georgetown University Student Association has reported the incidents to GUPD and the Division of Student Affairs, according to GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17).
Khan said there is no place for the account, or the type of speech it expresses, at Georgetown.
“The next step is further investigating the account. Ideally, an account bullying students shouldn’t be on Facebook or using university Wi-Fi,” Khan said.
Khan said it is important students feel comfortable reporting harassment to the university.
“My feeling is there is a number of other students who have received unwanted messages from this John Carroll account,” Khan said. “How do we create a culture where students feel comfortable speaking up to the university? Is there a mistrust of the university? Because that may be a barrier to reporting and something we need to continue to address.”
Pullin said the account poses a threat to all members of the Georgetown community.
“I’ve dealt with much worse in my life, and a keyboard coward with Twitter fingers is not going to make me lose sleep,” Pullin wrote. “However, if he could say that to me he could say it to anyone, and honestly that’s the kind of unchecked behavior that needs to be ended immediately.”
Khan also said GUSA will address these incidents and the larger topic of appropriate speech at a Free Speech Open Forum on Thursday sponsored by GUSA’s Free Speech Policy Team and the university’s Speech and Expression Committee, which oversees implementation and interpretation of the Speech and Expression Policy.
“Where do we draw the line? This is not just a John Carroll conversation, especially with the election,” Khan said. “How do we draw the line between expressing political opinion versus harassment and bullying? Students being aware they should report these things is a big part of that.”
Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is contemplating suicidal thoughts, you can call the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Correction: This article previously stated Jawad Pullin (COL ’18) is in the School of Foreign Service; he is in the College.