Members of the Georgetown University Student Association Senate condemned a mass gathering of students on campus celebrating the men’s basketball team’s March 13 Big East Championship win.
During the March 14 Senate meeting, senators questioned why Georgetown University Police Department officers did not disperse the crowd. Photos and videos posted on social media of the incident showed a large crowd of students, many of whom were not wearing masks or social distancing on and off campus property, congregating outside the gates on 37th Street NW and O Street NW next to the Village B dormitories, where some students are currently living this semester.
GUSA Senator Leo Rassieur (COL ’23) said he plans to ask GUPD why it allegedly chose to move students off campus property rather than write students up for student conduct violations.
“Why it is that the GUPD response was essentially to push students out of the main gates but then to not monitor them when there’s been so many other times when they will write you up for just walking around — even off-campus — when maybe you’re intoxicated or something or your house has an off-campus noise complaint,” Rassieur said at the GUSA meeting.
Senators cited harsher enforcement of COVID-19 regulations by university patrol forces this past year as instances when the university has used more punitive measures, including incidents involving the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program, a neighborhood patrol service under Georgetown’s Office of Neighborhood Life that responds to complaints from Georgetown community residents. In the past year, SNAP has punished students for non-COVID-19-related violations such as noise complaints even when they were off campus.
In the aftermath of the incident, many students took to GroupMe and social media to express their concerns over the health hazards the on-campus gathering could potentially cause. Students also pushed for GUSA to take action in response to the incident, according to GUSA Senator Dominic Gordon (SFS ’24).
“I don’t really know how GUSA should move forward with this,” Gordon said at the meeting. “But it was concerning to me and it was concerning to a lot of other people on campus, a lot of people that weren’t on campus, and I’d like to figure out what we can do about this going forward.”
Georgetown University encourages all students to continue to follow university COVID-19 guidelines to protect others and for the possibility of a return to campus, according to a university spokesperson.
“We urge students to follow all University health and safety measures in order to protect themselves and others,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We will only be successful in returning everyone to campus if we all work together to reduce the spread of the virus by wearing a mask, keeping at least six feet apart, and keeping indoor and outdoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer.”
The university has received reports regarding the incident and is addressing them, according to a March 18 email from Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson, reminding students that noncompliance with university COVID-19 guidelines is a violation of the Code of Student Conduct,
“While we appreciate the celebratory moment, it is crucial that we all adhere to public health guidance to stop the spread of the virus and to protect all members of our community,” Olson wrote in the email.
Senators echoed these concerns at the meeting, including GUSA Senate Speaker Melanie Cruz-Morales (COL ’22), who said the university must publicly respond to the on-campus gathering.
“Just seeing countless and countless people without masks is enough to demand an answer from the university and GUPD,” Cruz-Morales said.
Many students have called for the abolition of GUPD after complaints of hyperpolicing, particularly from students of color, who have reported experiences of unnecessary and excessive force from GUPD. GUPD’s response to the incident was racially biased, according to GUSA Senator Makayla Jeffries (COL ’23), the organizer of the GUPD Abolition Working Group, which aims to abolish university police and instead establish alternative community solutions.
“When I went outside, I just saw GUPD just watching it happen because the crowd was white,” Jeffries said at the meeting.
University officials do not monitor student group discussions or take positions on topics discussed, so the university declined to respond to the GUSA Senators’ comments that GUPD’s actions were racially motivated, according to a university spokesperson.