Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Campus Rallies Against Prejudice

According to a crowd of approximately 150 protesters in Red Square yesterday afternoon, “silence is not an option.”

Sparked by a Sept. 9 hate crime that sent one student to the hospital, a protest organized by GUPride yesterday brought professors and student leaders together to speak against bias-related incidents at Georgetown.

According to the incident report from the Metropolitan Police Department, on Sept. 9, a student was assaulted by a man yelling homophobic epithets on the 3600 block of O Street. The victim later identified his assailant on Facebook as Philip Cooney (MSB ’10). Cooney has since been arrested for the crime but pleaded not guilty on Friday.

Members of GUPride tabled in Red Square from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. yesterday gathering signatures for a petition supporting reforms to university procedure for addressing future hate crimes. Scott Chessare (COL ’10), co-president of GUPride, said that the petition received approximately 750 signatures, over 10 percent of the undergraduate student body.

The petition listed four grievances raised by the protesters, including earlier notification of hate crimes, extended resources to the LGBTQ community, mandatory events to educate students about the LGBTQ community and a revised LGBTQ working group.

Speakers during the rally included three professors – Dana Luciano and Ricardo Ortiz of the English department, Mark Lance of the philosophy department – as well as student leaders from GUPride, the College Democrats, the Georgetown Solidarity Committee and Take Back the Night.

“Silence, in the words of Martin Luther King, is betrayal,” Lance said, emphasizing that it is people’s responsibility “to not just . sit there.”

GSC member Zack Pesavento (SFS ’08) spoke about his difficulty in coming out as a gay student at Georgetown, saying that the hardship is made worse because of incidents such as the Sept. 9 hate crime.

Flavia Menezes (COL ’08), co-chair of Take Back the Night, said that attitudes on campus needed to change.

“Disbanding gender norms that try to force us all to conform to certain, strict stereotypes for how we should act based purely on our sex is hence central to our mission,” Menezes said.

After rallying in Red Square for approximately 45 minutes, a group of about 70 people marched to University President John J. DeGioia’s office carrying a poster signed by protesters that read, “Stop hate,” and repeating chants, such as, “Hate crimes are ridiculous; my Georgetown is better than this.”

“It really exceeded our wildest expectations,” Chessare said of the rally. “At one point, it seemed like all of Red Square filled up.”

Chessare, as well as GUPride co-President Olivia Chitayat (COL ’10) and several other GUPride members, met with administrators including Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, Vice President for University Safety Rocco DelMonaco and Center for Multicultural Equity and Access Director Dennis Williams after the rally to discuss the group’s demands.

The students presented the four grievances listed on the petition at the meeting, including better communication about bias-related incidents. Although the hate crime occurred on Sept. 9, Olson did not send out an e-mail about it until Friday, almost three weeks later. Olson declined comment for this report.

“In terms of the Sept. 9 incident specifically, DPS, consistent with their practice of disseminating safety alerts when there is a threat to the community, determined that this was a contained incident that posed no ongoing threat to members of the campus community,” university spokesperson Julie Bataille said.

Chessare said that DelMonaco and Williams explained that they did not want to compromise the success of the ongoing investigation by sending out a campus-wide alert, but he added that the students present at the meeting “weren’t really satisfied” with this explanation.

The students also requested more resources for the LGBTQ community, such as having administrators to whom students can talk about sexuality issues.

Chessare said that GUPride has also noted the “lack of basic education” about the LGBTQ community and suggested that there be a mandatory event, possibly during New Student Orientation, during which students would receive more information. He said that he did not see this as a largely security-related issue.

“Ignorance can sometimes be a big problem too,” he said. “It’s a cultural issue at Georgetown; people are apathetic. I don’t think there’s anything DPS could do to prevent this in the future.”

The list of grievances also included an LBGTQ working group consisting of students and faculty. Chessare said that there is currently one in name but that no one at the meeting, including Olson, knew whether it has met or been productive in the past year.

The students are planning to meet with Olson again later this week, and they have suggested that University President John J. DeGioia speak at an open forum next week about hate-crime prevention.

“Given the success of our rally, we’ve put the administration in a place where they have to act,” Chessare said. “Time will tell.”

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