Georgetown has been criticized in the past for club exclusivity on campus, yet students are still able to find groups that celebrate acceptance. Given the university’s status as a predominantly white institution, minority students are more aware of the need for inclusive spaces. Minority and affinity groups on campus, which are clubs that bring students of common racial, cultural and gender identities together, epitomize the type of settings that students have created.
The newest Asian-American Hub for Organizing, Movement and Empowerment on Magis Row, an affinity residential housing assignment inspired by the campaigns that created La Casa Latina and Black House, is an example of student initiative in cultivating their own spaces. Affinity groups are very multifaceted; some offer preprofessional mentorship, such as Hermanas de Georgetown and the McDonough Alliance, while others organize an array of events, like GU Pride and Black Student Association.
These clubs’ inclusivity is essential to their nature. For Selena Juarez (COL ’20), the selectivity of some other clubs on campus that use applications, resumes and interviews to determine membership can be a problematic element of club culture at Georgetown. Juarez is the advocacy chair for Hermanas de Georgetown, a club that provides mentorship and professional development opportunities for Latinx students.
“I’m really proud to say that the clubs that I’m a part of don’t require applications,” Juarez said. “Especially because these types of identity-based clubs are critical to institutions like Georgetown, where we’re the minority, and we really just need to find communities to uplift us and support us and get us through this experience.”
Siena Hohne (COL ’22), deputy of social affairs for GU Pride, echoed Juarez’s thoughts and expressed how watching peers apply and get rejected from clubs was troubling. Rejections from clubs that are based on identity and interest would be antithetical to their purpose, according to Hohne.
“It’s the responsibility, almost, of clubs that are committed to identity to not be competitive and to provide a space where you just meet other people and form relationships,” Hohne said.
The open nature of these clubs also means that students engaged in one group often find themselves involved in or connected to multiple others. Juarez’s involvement in affinity group allow her to express different aspects of her identity, which she expressed in an interview with The Hoya.
“Just because I am Latina doesn’t mean that’s my only identity. Your identity is very multifaceted; I think that it would be very difficult not to be in all of my clubs because some part of my identity would not be represented,” Juarez said.
Kuma Okoro (SFS ’20), who is the vice president of programming for the BSA, a representative for the Students of Color Alliance and historian for Black House, said the cultural groups he is a part of have helped him find his footing on campus socially.
“BSA and ASG [African Society of Georgetown] provided that community on campus that I needed when I came in freshman year through the events that they put on and things like that,” Okoro said. “Then [in] my sophomore year I started getting involved in the boards because these events meant so much to me, so I wanted to give back to those events and put my energy towards them.”
While Okoro acknowledged the opportunity that these identity-focused community spaces present, he also expressed how club culture at Georgetown can sometimes be too dominant in conceptions of the school’s social landscape, even within identity and interest groups.
“Clubs are an opportunity to facilitate community and build community but I think sometimes we limit ourselves at Georgetown to only think in the realm of ‘club’ … and I think that sometimes it may limit our perspective of community,” Okoro said. “Just in thinking about who and what is community on campus, I think that that conversation is largely driven by clubs but I also don’t know if it needs to be, or if it should be. Sometimes it’s not as organic of a community-building.”
Ultimately, students involved in minority or affiliate groups see their organizations as tying them to a larger ideological or identity-based community. For them, the work that these groups do often comes back to that community. Regardless of whether the events are hosted in Gaston Hall or a small Intercultural Center classroom, Okoro feels they all have significant value.
“No matter how big or small the event is, it’s something that’s worth it if it brings the community together, and people can walk away feeling like they know somebody better, the understand their identity better, they learned something,” Okoro said.