The recent and ongoing Hoyas United for Free Speech Campaign has inspired manifold questions as to the true nature and extent to which Georgetown students can enjoy free speech around the Hilltop.
Currently, limited free speech zones such as Red Square serve as locations on campus where students are welcome to enjoy full free speech rights. However, as an institution committed to fostering meaningful dialogue and intellectual conversation among students, faculty and administrators, Georgetown should make greater strides to expand free speech rights to include more spaces around campus.
Understandably, Georgetown’s Catholic identity plays a key role in fostering the inhibited free speech atmosphere extant on campus. The recent debacle with H*yas for Choice, wherein students were forcibly and mistakenly removed from tabling near the front gates as a way to keep Donald Cardinal Wuerl’s honorary degree reception uninterrupted by pro-choice advocates, testifies to the ambiguous and arbitrary nature of existing free speech policies for Georgetown students. But this should not be the case.
The goals of HUFS include establishing a timeline for creating campus-wide free speech zones, immediately allowing free speech in and around Healy Circle and removing folding tables from the list of “permanent structures” prohibited in areas not designated for the purpose of free speech. Not only will these reforms promote a substantive dialogue on campus, but they also make intuitive sense.
Aside from actual public safety concerns, allowing students to demonstrate their opinions in one open space and not another is inherently arbitrary. Furthermore, HUFS brings up the valid point that folding tables are, by nature, portable, and not permanent.
The HUFS campaign seeks to raise awareness among students about the paltry acknowledgment of their free speech rights while advocating for constructive changes in university policies. It stands as a testament to the will of students for more expansive rights relating to unrestricted expression and communication, making this campaign a rare and exceptional opportunity for students and administrators to work together and make lasting differences on campus.
But above all, it is essential that involved actors come together in an ethos of unity, and more importantly, in a commitment to make wise policy decisions that are mutually constructive and beneficial for Georgetown’s students.