Students gathered Friday on Healy Lawn in a show of support for civil discourse, responding to radio host Rush Limbaugh’s disparaging comments about a Georgetown Law Center student earlier this month.
The event was prompted by Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke (LAW ’12) a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she advocated that employers’ health care plans include coverage for contraception at a meeting of the House Democratic Steering Committee and University President John J. DeGioia’s resultant letter promoting respectful public dialogue.
The Stand for Civility was run by a loose coalition group of 20 student organizations, according to the event’s leader, Jordan Daniels (SFS ’13).
“We were really happy about the diversity of the organizations that signed on,” she said, and added that the group had been working since spring break to organize the event.
Georgetown University Student Association President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) opened the event by echoing DeGioia’s message.
“Whatever side of the healthcare debate you’re on, it’s important to be articulate,” she said.
Gustafson was followed by Daniel Solomon (SFS ’13), the student director of Georgetown’s chapter of STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition. He spoke about the importance of endorsing women as members of the community and outlined important questions for engaging responsibly in public discourse.
“Can you understand where I’m coming from? Can I understand where you’re coming from, and can we approach each other with dignity and respect?” he asked.
The final speaker was Emma Green (COL ’12), a resident of the Body Positive house on Magis Row and a member of the Philodemic Society, who stressed the larger implications of the recent controversy over the provision of contraception.
“This is an issue about women, but ultimately this is an issue about debate,” she said.
An Open Letter from the Students of Georgetown University, which supports civil discourse, was also drafted by the event’s organizers and posted to change.org. It had received 167 signatures at press time.
Students in attendance said that promoting civility is a cause with widespread support.
“People know we need dialogue about these issues,” James Saucedo (MSB ’13) said. Event organizers asked students to write one of their personal principles on a balloon as the event drew to a close. Meghan Ferguson (COL ’15) and many other wrote “respect.”
“[The kind of language used by Limbaugh] is so counterproductive. It accomplishes nothing,” Ferguson said. “You can’t have equality without respect.”