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

Prevent Assualts By Promoting Self Defense

Can you remember a week when you didn’t see a Department of Public Safety report about an assault on or near campus? Assaults have become so frequent that we are accustomed to them and numb to their effects.

The perpetrators of these crimes do not target a specific group. The victims include men and women, the old and the young, and even the DPS officers who are paid to protect the school and its students.

Assaults should not be tolerated. There are a handful of things that the university has tried to do to decrease crime on and around campus, including putting up more street lights off and on campus, putting up call boxes throughout campus, more camera surveillance, increasing the number of Metropolitan Police Department and DPS officers to patrol our streets, and giving students regular reminders in the “Security Alert” e-mails: not to walk alone during the night, to always lock their doors, to be on lookout for suspicious behavior and to use SafeRides.

But the university has also had its share of security struggles, including its inability to ensure that all the call boxes are functional or to offer competitive wages to DPS officers.

No matter what the university does, however, it seems infeasible for DPS officers to closely monitor every inch of campus or to expect students to always have access to a nearby callbox.

With this in mind, perhaps the university’s focus should shift from boosting enforcement to better preparing students to defend themselves. It may be surprising to many, but Georgetown actually does already have a self-defense class, one that the university should further support if it wants to mitigate the effects of assault.

The Women’s Center began offering self-defense courses in 1999, contracting the non-profit group, DC Impact, to teach female students basic self-defense techniques. These six-week basic self-defense courses are offered once each semester on campus. The leaders of Georgetown University Men Advocating Relationship Responsibility with the Women’s Center have thoroughly researched a handful of self-defense classes – from small organizations to large organizations such as DC Rape Crisis – in order to get the best price, without losing quality of service.

They eventually got the best deal from DC Impact. The overall cost of contracting DC Impact to teach the course is too large for the Women’s Center’s budget. As a result, it charges a nominal fee ($40 for students and $50 for non-students in 2007); this fee covers approximately one-third of the total cost of the self-defense course. The Women’s Center pays the balance, with additional support from departmental co-sponsors. This fee has been too much for the Center to handle – so it has been forced to cut one class and reduce the size of the remaining one. How is it possible that the university does not allocate more money to the Women’s Center for this worthwhile program?

The Center is now supporting a joint venture with GUMARR to have a permanent co-sponsorship to cover the full cost of the self-defense course so that students, both men and women, can take full advantage of this resource. GUMARR has looked for money from other clubs and has even tried applying for scholarships. Still, as a Student Activities Commission club, its financial resources are very limited. Students should not have to pay to learn how to defend themselves. A contract has been secured, a room has been secured, but funding is still missing in action.

I now ask GUSA to help – in its Senate and in its executive branch – to stand up and propose a change. In its Web site, the student association claims to be “working to ensure student safety” and to “achieve positive goals for student life.” But the executive branch has offered to give a mere few hundred dollars after many tedious, circular conversations when the need for this class is actually over $2000.

It is time for GUSA, as well as University, to help make a real, positive difference for the GU community and truly show its support to instate a free self-defense class since the university is at the moment not providing adequate financial support . One might argue that it is not worth it to offer a free class, because it might not make a substantial difference in the number of assaults and that people might not take the class seriously if it was free.

Of course this class wouldn’t be the be-all and end-all solution to assaults on campus, but hopefully the university will see that this class will become a success and begin to provide the funding itself. Even if this program does not become a strong success story, at least GUSA can tell the student body that voted it in that they tried to make a change and support the program in the mean time. And at this point, any change from the status quo in regards to protecting our students is a positive one.

Levine Thomas is a senior in the College and a former web editor of THE HOYA.

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