In recent years, Red Square has become the focal point of student free speech. From this month’s XL Dissent protests against the Keystone pipeline to the constant presence of unrecognized student groups like H*yas for Choice, individuals have come to Red Square to demonstrate their support for clear and open free speech policies on campus.

This past week, Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15) and Giuliana Cucci (COL ’14) distributed pop art-style posters featuring prominent university administrators and church leaders, such as University President John J. DeGioia and Pope Francis, Photoshopped to appear in drag. Featured in Red Square and Leavey Center, the posters’ only written explanation was their title, “Utraque Unum,” and the corresponding English translation, “Both into one.”

These students have demonstrated their dedication to making the most of free speech on campus. By publicly calling into question traditional interpretations of gender despite the university’s stated policy not to recognize any non-binary genders, Lloyd and Cucci have proven to be an excellent example of individuals who have actively encouraged dialogue even when expressing unpopular opinions.

When Lloyd unsuccessfully proposed this campaign to the GU Pride board, the board agreed with the sentiment of the images, yet believed that their inflammatory nature would put Pride’s access to university benefits at risk.

Likewise, we do not discourage the distribution of these images, nor do we challenge their compliance with the university’s free expression policy. However, these posters’ effectiveness was inhibited by their unclear purpose.

Images of Catholic leaders in drag may well offend members of the Catholic community here who have yet to fully embrace the LGBTQ community. Rather than offering an argument, remonstrance or an explanation of their significance, the images stand alone, easily and falsely perceived as sensationalist — speech for the sake of speech.

Certainly students should not tailor their speech to please university administrators, but any group that uses the campus free speech policy to defend controversial forms of expression without due explanations should reconsider its tactics.

Georgetown students have long campaigned for the ability to express opinions and speak freely to defend against hostile language. Showing sensibility and responsibility in campus dialogue is a critically important part of protecting student speech on a campus that has been known to limit it.

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