During GU Pride’s Coming Out Day celebration this year, two unidentified high school boys affiliated with the conservative Catholic organization the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property filmed GU Pride’s OUTober event.
The boys interviewed Georgetown students on film, telling them that they were working on a class project. Despite the students’ requests not to be filmed, the interviewers berated their subjects with leading questions in an attempt to confuse them. In the version of the video published online, the boys manipulated quotes and did not adequately protect the students’ identities. Ultimately, a member of the Office of Communications staff asked the boys to leave campus, since they had not been authorized to film on campus.
Although Georgetown’s Speech and Expression policy should be extended, this expansion cannot come at the cost of student privacy. In this case, the administration’s removal of the two boys from campus was a necessary course of action.
The film crew of “The Smoke of Satan,” regardless of the opinion they expressed in their video, showed no regard for the wishes of the students they interviewed and abandoned all intellectual integrity during the editing of their video. Even if the two boys had been authorized to film on campus, their persistence in interviewing and filming students who had asked not to be on camera, as well as their skewed presentation of these student’s testimonies, constitutes a hostile violation of their privacy.
Red Square is a free speech zone. The purpose of this space is to foster dialogue and the exchange of ideas. However, intentional distortion of students’ quotes and the aggressive manner in which the film crew approached the members of GU Pride abuses the school’s policy.
While the University needs to consider expanding its speech and expression policy, this incident has shown the potential abuses that can happen under the pretext of free speech. Georgetown has the duty as an academic institution to advance lively intellectual conversations, and part of this duty is keeping this free discourse professional and courteous to all sides of the argument. The behavior of the makers of “Smoke of Satan” did not uphold these standards.
The University’s move to ensure a positive environment for discourse was not only appropriate, but commendable, because it ultimately upheld the spirit of appropriate intellectual discourse on campus.