The Georgetown University Student Association Senate unanimously passed a resolution voicing solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests during an emergency meeting Monday evening.
The resolution affirms GUSA’s support for Georgetown University’s Black community and condemns the long history of police violence against Black Americans: violence epitomized by the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Dion Johnson, George Floyd and Tony McDade. The resolution also calls upon the Georgetown administration, the Georgetown University Police Department and the Metropolitan Police Department to outline policies to secure the safety of Black Georgetown students. The Black Leadership Forum and the Black Survivors Coalition co-sponsored the resolution, with several members from both organizations contributing to the document.
GUSA must pledge unwavering support to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to Nile Blass (COL ’22), a GUSA liaison for BSC.
“Especially with the murders mentioned in the resolution, there’s no room to say that any of these things were appropriate or that the racial division and strife and harm being done to Black people in this country is fine,” Blass said during the GUSA meeting. “There’s no room for debate. You’re either accepting the reality as stated, in experience and in statistical facts, or you’re choosing deliberately to be ignorant of the experiences of the people who share your classrooms in Georgetown.”
The resolution’s passage comes amid worldwide protests against police brutality and persistent racial inequities in the United States. Public demonstrations in Washington, D.C., entered their seventh day Thursday as hundreds of protestors gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
The resolution serves as recognition of the problems Georgetown’s Black student community confronts, according to Blass.
“I think it’s just an acknowledgment in terms of the tumultuous times that we’re dealing with and just the higher levels of stress and concern that a lot of Black and Brown students are experiencing,” Blass said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “This is a confirmation that our student government body acknowledges the suffering, acknowledges the systematic pain that goes into that suffering.”
GUSA’s statement also calls the Georgetown administration and student body to action, according to GUSA Senator Leo Teixeira (COL ’21), who introduced the legislation.
“We call on the administration to continue supporting and making resources available to affected students to the extent of their capacity to do so and to have GUPD and the Second District of MPD to release a statement elaborating on how it will fulfill and further its commitment to foster a safer space for Georgetown’s Black students moving forward,” Teixeira wrote in an email to The Hoya. “To the campus community, we’re urging them to support and uplift our Black students, to consistently prioritize and listen to Black voices, and to consider donating to bail funds and other relevant orgs, if they’re capable of doing so right now.”
The resolution intends to lay bare the realities of police brutality and racism in the United States, ones which the Georgetown community must confront, according to GUSA Senator Samantha Moreland (COL ’21).
“I feel like I can’t be Black and be silent about this,” Moreland said during the GUSA meeting. “Rightfully so, this resolution is not going to be nice and it’s not going to be comfortable for everybody to read, but it’s necessary. We have to stop trying to sugarcoat things in order to include more people. People need to let themselves be more uncomfortable.”
Beyond releasing a statement, GUSA plans to take further action through a proposal to GUPD that calls for both deescalation training and a client survey, as well as a long-term plan to either reduce the number of MPD officers on campus or divest completely from the MPD, according to GUSA Vice President Bryce Badger (MSB ’21).
“We’re hoping that because of this momentum and because this actually matters to students and for the safety of Black students on campus, we have to reform our relationship with both GUPD and MPD, and the time is now,” Badger said during the meeting.
Though the resolution represents an appropriate response to the protests, GUSA has often failed to provide consistent support to Black students, only acting in response to momentous events that catch the attention of the broader campus community, according to Blass. The organization must work to cultivate a relationship with Georgetown’s Black community and continually advocate for Black students.
“GUSA is very reactionary,” Blass said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “When things happen like this and GUSA responds appropriately, that’s cool, but the failure is in those levels of support and resources that Black and Brown communities on campus needed before George Floyd that they weren’t getting, and it’s not good enough to respond to the really big things and not have a cultivated, long-term, consistent relationship with that community.”
GUSA representatives themselves, particularly representatives of color, also face exclusion and a lack of support within the senate, according to GUSA Senator Zahra Wakilzada (COL ’23).
“When I entered the senate, it wasn’t inclusive and it wasn’t diverse,” Wakilzada said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “There have been many times during the senate meetings when I didn’t feel welcome, didn’t feel like I had a voice and didn’t feel like I could participate in different issues. A lot of times, I would text a fellow senator to speak on my behalf on the issue that I wanted to talk about.”
As the policy chair for race and cultural inclusion, Wakilzada plans to improve the atmosphere within GUSA by implementing additional diversity training. The GUSA Senate also aims to better connect with the Black community on campus by improving outreach methods and creating more campaign assistance for women and students of color, according to GUSA Senate Speaker Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22).
Regardless of recent actions, GUSA must work on better supporting Black students in the future, according to Jordan Brown (COL ’22), a GUSA liaison for BSC.
“Something I want non-Black people to understand is that these protests aren’t isolated incidents,” Brown said during the GUSA meeting. “It’s not something that just came out of nowhere. And the violence and the hatred and everything that you’re seeing come out of Black people is well-deserved and has been truly lived for a long, long period of time. Don’t just stop with whatever we’re doing here. But the next time Black people are affected, the next thing that comes up, please also consider giving your support.”