The Department of Public Safety has assigned a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Liaison Officer to combat homophobia on campus, according to Associate Director of DPS Joseph Smith.
“[Officer Elizabeth Fendrich] will carry a cell phone so that our campus community can contact her directly,” Smith wrote in an e-mail. “It is important…that the LGBTQ community feels that they have a trusted law enforcement resource in DPS that they can access when the need arises.”
Smith said the officer was appointed approximately a month ago.
The new LGBTQ Liaison Officer is part of a larger effort on the part of the University to better protect Georgetown’s LGBTQ community in the wake of two hate crimes that have occurred in the past week.
The first incident occurred on October 27 when a student wearing a pro-gay rights shirt was physically assaulted by two unknown males on Canal Road, according to a Public Safety Alert. Five days later, another student was hospitalized after a bias-related physical assault on 36th and N Streets NW.
In addition to the two assaults, an anonymous hate note was taped to the door of the LGBTQ Center on Monday, according to Director of the LGBTQ Center Sivagami Subbarata.
Although DPS is taking measures to prevent further violence, the Metropolitan Police Department cannot look into either attack until the victims file police reports. So far, neither victim has done so, according to Executive Director of MPD’s Office of Communications Traci Hughes.
In a Monday night meeting of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, MPD Lieutenant John Hedgecock said the victim of Sunday’s attack did not remember much about it.
“He had really no recollection of what had occurred,” Hedgecock said.
Last night, the Students Concerned about Campus Safety Working Group held a meeting to brainstorm specific solutions for safety concerns. Students suggested measures such as increasing pay for DPS officers and more frequent patrols at night.
Some students have criticized the University’s immediate response to the attacks. Carter Lavin (SFS ‘10) was outraged when he found out about the November 1 incident.
“The safest place to be is the scene of the crime the day after it happens, that’s when all the police are there,” Lavin explained. “If this is able to happen twice in one week, it shows the University didn’t care. Now they’ve done all this stuff. Well, it would have been nice half a week ago.”
When an e-mail went out to the University community on Sunday about the second attack, Lavin organized a flash protest on Sunday afternoon, starting a wave of student activism that included a vigil and several meetings addressing issues of student safety.
At the vigil on Monday night, students, faculty, staff, and administrators called for an improvement of student safety and expressed anger about Georgetown’s atmosphere surrounding homosexuality.
“Georgetown will not tolerate homophobia or any other form of discrimination,” Rosemary Kilkenny, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity, said on behalf of the administration at Monday’s vigil.
GU Pride President Joseph Graumann (SFS ‘10) conveyed the disillusionment of many LGBTQ students in the face of the attacks.
“They show that Georgetown is not an entirely safe and tolerant community for every student,” Graumann said. “They show that these kinds of crimes can happen to any one of us.”
Many speakers at the vigil made reference to the fall of 2007, when similar crimes spurred Georgetown’s creation of the LGBTQ Resource Center. Subbarata spoke of the Center’s history at the vigil.
“I’m very aware of what made the Center open 14 months ago, but it has been a wonderful 14 months,” Subbarata said. “The fact that there are so many people here is proof that times have changed at Georgetown.”
Speakers at the vigil were adamant that the single event would not be the end of the discussion about homophobia and safety on campus.
“It’s amazing to see the institutional support,” Olivia Chitayat (SFS ‘10) said. “We know we’re not falling on deaf ears.”