Georgetown administrators have, over the past month, engaged in discussions about consolidating the Women’s Center, the LGBTQ Resource Center, and the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access into a single center. Many student leaders, however, have spoken out against this possibility.
“[Stand-alone centers] can be closer to these still fragile and and sensitive communities, and therefore be more in tune with their very real needs,” said Thomas Lloyd (SFS ‘15), president of GU Pride. “We hope that the university will not pursue any action that will undermine the distinct identities of any of the resource centers, hinder their abilities to serve their independent student communities, or make Georgetown’s commitment to each of these elements of diversity any less powerful or explicit.”
“There’s no conspiracy going on,” said Shiva Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center. “[Administrators] should have talked to the students ahead of time, but no decisions have been made. A main thing that we are trying to do is to try and have all three offices expand their space—because we have no space—and there were questions about possibly increasing efficiency, like through sharing some of our student workers.”
Hoyas United for Free Speech, a new self-described “coalition of students dedicated to promoting free speech and expression on Georgetown’s campus,” has circulated a petition calling on the university to, among other things, “preserve existing safe spaces including the Women’s Center, LGBTQ Resource Center, and CMEA.”
An IdeaScale proposal called “Protect Our Safe Spaces” has garnered over 390 votes of approval since it was started three and a half weeks ago.
The proposal’s author, GUSA Undersecretary of Gender Affairs Mariel Jorgensen (COL ‘16), urged Georgetown not to consolidate “marginalized groups under one ‘other’ umbrella.”
“Georgetown was the first Jesuit university to establish an LGBTQ Resource Center on campus, and for the university to have it subsumed into a composite center would be to take steps backward with regard to supporting students and staying true to the Jesuit tenet of cura personalis,” Jorgensen wrote in an email to the Voice. “In order to protect the interests, initiatives, ideas, and safety of students of all identities, Georgetown must protect its safe spaces on campus by recognizing the invaluable and unique roles played by the Women’s Center and LGTBQ Resource Center and the CMEA, respectively.”
Jorgensen’s proposal garnered enough attention online to warrant a response from Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Todd Olson.
“We are having a discussion about ways to create more coherence in our diversity work, and wanted to raise questions with students about potential approaches to doing that. First, this is not anything close to a finished decision—it is a conversation,” Dr. Olson replied on IdeaScale. “Second, any potential changes would preserve the distinctive identity and mission of the three current centers. We very much understand and value the work of each center, and the needs of all our students.”
Olson declined the Voice’s request to comment on the possibility of consolidating the centers.
One student who commented on the IdeaScale post expressed dissatisfaction with Olson’s statement.
“Dr. Olson, with all due respect, the conversation has been had. It has been had on our social media; it has been had in the coffee shops and other places around campus; and it has been had on Roundtables,” wrote Alexander Zajac (COL ‘15). “If the fact that this idea gained over 300 votes in less than one week isn’t enough to persuade the administration of the wild negligence they are committing here, then I am afraid that nothing else will be.”
Photo by Andrew Sullivan