In a year marked by protests in Washington, D.C., following President Donald Trump’s election and his new policies, Georgetown students advocated for progress in areas ranging from workers’ rights to protections for LGBTQ individuals.
Seventeen members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee staged a 35-hour sit-in at University President John J. DeGioia’s suite of offices starting Dec. 8 to protest the licensing contract with Nike. Eight members stayed overnight, which led to disciplinary sanctions. The contract GSC was pushing for the university to cut is separate from the agreement the athletics department and several university sports teams has with Nike.
As a result, the university committed not to renew its licensing contract with Nike unless the company allows the Worker Rights Consortium independent access and reporting of complaints regarding factory conditions Dec. 9.
At the time of the sit-in, Nike was the only university vendor that had not signed the Code of Conduct for University Licensees, which contains clauses related to standards of labor, wages, benefits and abuse of workers. Nike has come under criticism, including a strike at Hansae, Vietnam in November 2015, for violating human rights in its factories.
During the sit-in, nine students left the office when Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and Chief of Staff Joseph Ferrara threatened sanctions for staying in the offices overnight.
The Student Activities Commission voted Feb. 7 to sanction the GSC by admitting the group into a restoration process that removes GSC control over its budget until spring 2018. The eight students who remained in the suite overnight were put on disciplinary probation until the fall 2017 semester, were required to pay a $50 fine, serve five work sanction hours and send a formal letter of apology to Ferrara.
Although the agreement reached by GSC and the administration does not stipulate that Nike sign Georgetown’s Code of Conduct, GSC member Lily Ryan (COL ’18), who participated in the full duration of the sit-in, said she hopes the university will have Nike agree to a stricter code of conduct than it currently follows.
“There will also be negotiations on the code of conduct and, if Nike doesn’t sign our code of conduct, they have to have one that is equal to or better than ours,” Ryan said in a December interview with The Hoya.
In a December email to The Hoya, Nike spokesperson Sabrina Oei said the company intends to continuing contract negotiations with Georgetown.
“We remain hopeful of reaching an agreement on Georgetown’s licensing contract,” the statement reads.
Student activism also led the university to take a stance contrary to the Trump administration’s platform.
In March, the university announced it would make single-stall restrooms in public buildings on campus both gender-inclusive and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant by the end of the semester after working with the Georgetown University Student Association LGBTQ Inclusivity policy team.
The Office of Planning and Facilities Management is supplying the funding for the new signs, while funding for the completion of the feasibility study is coming from the Office of Student Affairs’ budget.
The initiative comes as Trump announced a rollback in federal protections for transgender students who attend public schools Feb. 23, reversing former President Barack Obama’s memos protecting the rights of transgender students in public schools.
Henry Callander (COL ’18), a former GUSA senator who is also a member of the LGBTQ Inclusivity team and GUPride, said today’s political climate has paved the way for the university to support transgender students.
“The number one phase right now is just changing the ones that are already single-stall restrooms into signage that says all-gender,” Callander said. “No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you’re at a school where everyone is loved and included. You have to be there for people, especially during turbulent times.”
About 200 students took to the streets Nov. 18 to protest Trump’s appointment of climate change contrarian Myron Ebell to head the transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Trump appointed Ebell to head his EPA transition team in September. Ebell currently heads environmental and energy policy at Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank funded in part by the coal industry, according to The New York Times.
Georgetown students, spearheaded by climate advocacy group Students for Climate Security, organized additional protests in the weeks leading up to the Senate vote to confirm Trump’s nomination for head of the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, on Feb 17.
Additionally, Students for Climate Security sent packets with former White House environmental studies and articles highlighting Pruitt’s environmental record to multiple senators.
Justin McCartney (SFS ’19), director of senate outreach strategy for Students for Climate Security, said climate change deniers cannot be in government.
“Climate change isn’t something you can put off. It’s something that has to be taken seriously,” McCartney said. “It’s something that you can’t overlook in favor of fossil fuel industry benefits.”
In April, the Lecture Fund hosted Ebell and Jeremy Symons, associate vice president of Climate Political Affairs at advocacy group Environment Defense Fund. Ebell said the EPA is no longer fulfilling its duties and climate change regulations are not required.
According to Ebell, who helped appoint senior staff and develop environmental policy as head of the transition team, the EPA has become oversized.
“The agency has largely accomplished its mission for clean air and clean water,” Ebell said. “This is an agency that has gotten fat and lazy, and that there is room to cut, particularly when you look at the freelancing that the agency has started to do beyond its statutory responsibilities. There is a lot of room to cut the budget.”
Symons said Trump’s March 28 executive order eliminating climate change policies established during former President Barack Obama’s administration, including the Clean Power Plan that would have closed hundreds of coal power plants, is detrimental to the EPA’s work.
“This is a demolition plan. They went right for the throat,” Symons said. “This administration has an agenda that’s extreme, that’s — I think — out of touch with the public.”