The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senate unanimously passed a resolution Sept. 19 demanding more information from the university about a break-in early Sunday morning in the New South dormitory.
The resolution alleges the university did not provide enough communication to students when an unknown individual entered New South, armed with a knife and following students, around 1 a.m. Sept. 19. An unknown person pulled a fire alarm, prompting students to evacuate the building. Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD) searched the crowd and eventually found the perpetrator; the suspect fled the area, however, before GUPD could detain the perpetrator.
GUPD Chief and Associate Vice President of Public Safety Jay Gruber announced Sept. 20 that GUPD officers had detained the suspected intruder, according to a Sept. 20 email to New South residents obtained by The Hoya.
GUPD first contacted New South residents about the break-in at 9 p.m. Sept. 19, around 20 hours after the incident was first reported. The lack of immediate communication from GUPD or the university left students in the dark about the situation, according to the resolution.
“Little information about the incident is publicly known beyond rumors,” the resolution reads. “The University has not sufficiently communicated with students, both those living in New South and not, about the incident.”
The break-in should have warranted a HOYAlert, a message sent to all Georgetown students and faculty during emergency situations, to provide immediate information and instruction to Georgetown students, according to GUSA Senator Zev Burton (COL ’22), who introduced the legislation.
“For the amount of HOYAlerts that we get, I feel like an intruder into a dorm would be at the top of the list,” Burton said during the GUSA meeting. “I’ve been at Georgetown for three years now, and I’ve never heard of an intruder entering into a dorm before. That is more of a reason to get a HOYAlert, not less.”
In addition to better communication, the university needs to provide more robust safety measures for students going forward, according to GUSA Senator Sam Li (SFS ’24).
“I believe that the university definitely has work to do in terms of keeping students safe,” Li wrote in an email to The Hoya. “While I am not sure additional security measures uniformly applied across campus is the best idea, I do believe heightened security in targeted areas/potential security training sessions for students could be helpful.”
When contacted for comment, a university spokesperson referred The Hoya to the two emails sent from Gruber to New South residents Sept. 19 and Sept. 20. GUPD Chief Gruber did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Hoya.
As part of the resolution, the GUSA Senate signed on to an open letter urging the university to improve communication with students during emergency situations. As of Sept. 21, 325 students have signed on to the letter.
During the Sept. 22 Student Safety Advisory Board meeting, a biweekly forum between GUPD officials and student leaders to provide feedback on GUPD policies and practices, members of GUSA joined other attendees and Gruber to discuss strengthening university safety protocols in light of the New South incident.
The university aims to create quicker and more frequent communication from GUPD to students during emergency situations, according to GUSA Senate Speaker Leo Rassieur (COL ’22).
“From meeting with GUPD Chief Gruber, we know that the University is working to improve their threat response system by putting out communication faster moving forward,” Rassieur wrote in an email to The Hoya. “My hope is that the University focuses on improving GUPD’s procedures.”
Above all, students should be informed of campus security issues in a timely and direct fashion, according to Burton.
“All we need is recognition and the assurance from the university that a freshman dorm will not be broken into,” Burton said.