Rarely do things occur at Georgetown that truly warrant outrage. But after incidents like the one that transpired this past weekend, the only emotion that can be felt is anger and fear. It is the student body’s duty to take this anger and put it to constructive uses. The Editorial Board hopes to echo sentiments of the entire community when it says that there is perhaps no worse scenario than sexual assault at gunpoint. The horror of the situation does not need to be embellished. On Saturday night, a member of the student body was forced to comply with the sexual advances of an intruder who was carrying a weapon. It is nothing short of a nightmare situation – one that should never be allowed to occur on campus. Period.
Whatever security changes are made as a result of this incident, the state of affairs that allowed this heartbreaking event to occur is utterly inexcusable.
Despicably, this is not the only time a major crime with a deadly weapon has occurred on or near campus. In November, the day after Thanksgiving, a student was robbed at gunpoint only yards from Lauinger Library in the early evening; the next month, a student was assaulted in an attempted robbery just two doors from her own home. In 2006, a student was mugged and shot on 33rd Street. Time and time again, students have been injured in armed incidents on or near campus – not to mention the multitude of alleged hate crimes, robberies and burglaries that have occurred at Georgetown. Only now, when one of our fellow students is assaulted in her residence, on university property, does the Office of University Safety suggest seriously reviewing protocol. Frankly, it’s sickening.
The only thing worse than a lack of security is a false sense of it. The university touts progress with alert systems and increased campus patrols, but have Hoyas seen a significant difference? No. While students and faculty see extended DPS presence in Lauinger Library, there is little to suggest that we are safer on campus.
As a student body, we are frequently let down by security. Some crime, of course, is inevitable. After all, we live in a major city, one that is among the most dangerous in the continental United States. This, however, does not excuse complacency. If anything, it makes such negligence even more inexcusable. Saturday saw an individual being subjected to an experience so unfair, so painful and so tragically avoidable that we have moved beyond being “let down” and into the realm of horror and disgust.
We are told to “lock our doors” and “remain vigilant” while guards are missing from their posts at the guard stations in Reynolds, McCarthy and Kennedy Halls. The vehicular guard gates – those that permit cars onto campus – are unwatched and left up all night and on weekends. The token DPS car – which is often empty – can only do so much to deter strangers from accessing campus.
Changes need to be made, and they need to be made quickly. That it took an armed man forcing himself on a girl in her own residence hall to get something so simple as a broken lock fixed is beyond comprehension.
Reforms are on the way, we are told. The Securitas firm, to whom our safety is contracted out, has suspended the officers on duty at the time. At least one additional DPS officer will be patrolling LXR. We have been told that the university plans to hire more DPS officers. DelMonaco has responded to concerns by providing his office line (202-687-8291) for students to call him. Fine. These are first steps. What we really need, however, is a massive overhaul of how our security functions and a focus on making the individual student’s ability to move freely and safely on campus the absolute priority. We need better surveillance measures. Broken GOCard machines are an amateur oversight; sleeping security guards are a disgrace. If they need more money, give it to them. If they need to be fired, fire them. Whatever it takes. The same goes for other material and human resources: whatever it takes.
We passed comment on the new era signaled by DPS Director Darryl Harrison’s tenure coming to an end. Two months ago, his announcement that he had “accomplished everything [he] really wanted to do” seemed careless; today, it is unfathomable. This weekend’s nightmare is far beyond DelMonaco’s description of “disconcerting.”
Students and parents alike need to voice their outrage over this incident. We realize that it is the end of the year, a time when we all tend to become more introverted and concerned about our personal concerns. Students bury themselves under textbooks and set up camp in the library. Seniors are focused on moving out, and underclassmen are simply trying to get through the next week. This, however, has also become a time when we must all show interest in our campus’s future. After all, this is our campus, and, for the majority of the year, our home. Georgetown needs to come together and voice its indignation, showing the administration that the status quo is unacceptable. We must not only tell them that it is a time for change, but demand it. The opinions of parents, who often foot the bill, hold great weight with the university. For them this should be a time for letter writing and righteous indignation.
And again, we must ask: Where are our administrators throughout this? We applaud DelMonacco and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson for addressing this issue quickly and professionally. But the stories in THE HOYA regarding crimes on campus have all too often reported that DPS Director Darryl Harrison and Vice President for University Safety Rocco DelMonaco did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Perhaps this stems from the culture of non-transparency established by the DeGioia administration. After all, he only responded to a campus crisis after two alleged hate crimes and repeated pressure by campus groups and faculty to address the issue. Throughout all of this, we have heard nothing from our president, the one who’s ultimately responsible for ensuring the dignity and growth of this institution. It’s time to let the Georgetown community know that you take campus safety seriously. This isn’t senseless rant against the administration; a student has been assaulted in unimaginable circumstances, and we are angry and frightened.
We stand behind the brave individual whose misfortune is the impetus for this editorial. We do not intend to speak for her, nor attempt to understand what she may be going through. We will say, however, that the administration must now earn our forgiveness and our trust. This weekend’s experience has defied adjectives. Our administrators have failed us, and it’s time for the student body to let them know that enough is enough.
Editor’s Note: This editorial originally misreported the desk guards at the Southwest Quad as employed by Securitas Services USA, Inc., which they are not. It also said that the guard on duty at the time of the armed sexual assault was dismissed; in fact, two guards were suspended.