All decades respond to a past and choose an approach to the future.
The Georgetown Voice began its bold response to the 1960s when it published in March ’69. The Voice wanted to be The Village Voice for Georgetown University and to drag the university — students and administration — to engage the city.
The Hoya chose to engage the university. We didn’t belong to the city. The Hoya belonged to the students.
The context is important. Georgetown couldn’t escape the city any longer.
Students had safely watched from the roof of Walsh Building as southeast Washington, D.C., burned in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death as if Georgetown were a city apart and unaffected. The massacre of four students at Kent State in protest of an unjust war had led to a simple delay of finals that spring. Previous marches on Washington had ended in petitions and song.
But May Day brought to campus tear gas and a perimeter of riot police and national guard, and students who ventured off campus were illegally arrested and rounded up with 12,000 others at RFK Stadium. Nixon’s decisions to invade Laos and Cambodia cost 22,000 American lives, and we were eligible for the draft — with the end of student deferments, we could be shipped off with just 12 weeks of basic training.
It was a new decade of engagement. While The Voice engaged the city, The Hoya engaged our student body. Georgetown had indeed been a social cloister.
We covered culture and arts and features and politics — student and national — but with analysis and commentary, not breaking news. We couldn’t compete with The Washington Post of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Watergate was breaking. Impeachment was in the air. Even in an era devoid of social media, we couldn’t beat The Post.
The Voice and The Hoya were flush with advertising revenue. The Voice spent its money on delivering the paper to the city. We spent ours to build a better student newspaper.
We invested in typewriters, cameras and darkroom equipment. We could publish twice a week. We could add special editions, features, extra pages, and in-depth coverage and analysis. We could introduce our city to students and invite them to experience the arts at the new John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. We could invite them to listen to interviews with statesmen about politics and world events, analyses about Watergate or features about a new basketball coach who promised to bring fame to a fledgling basketball program.
Follow our masthead. We invested in people. Our editorial board recruited. We grew. We began to reflect the student community. More women became reporters, then columnists, then editors. Within the editorial staff, news editors moved to arts, managing editors moved to features and sports editors moved to editors-in-chief. Good writers and editors asked to write what they loved to write. We said yes.
Sadly, as we begin a new decade, there are parallels to my time as editor of The Hoya: undeclared war, protests, incivility, a call for engagement with the city – metaphorically or in reality. The Voice was right. The city is there for us to engage. But still, to my eye, The Hoya belongs to the students, as a voice of the students and to the students, of what they might not otherwise hear or see, through a student’s eyes and ears.
Peter Morris (CAS ’74) is a former editor-in-chief of The Hoya.