On Dec. 8, 2016, members of Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC) participated in a sit-in to protest Georgetown’s licensing contract with Nike. Eight of these students have since been found in violation of the Code of Student Conduct for unauthorized access and failure to comply with a university office or law enforcement officer.
On Feb. 2, 2017 they received Notices of Administrative Action in response to their violations, stating that the students must pay a $50 fine, serve five work sanction hours, and write a letter of apology to Joe Ferrara, President DeGioia’s Chief of Staff. The students will also be placed on Disciplinary Probation I until Aug. 11, 2017 which threatens suspension for any new Student Conduct violations. These sanctions exceed the minimum level of punishment recommended by the Code of Student Conduct.
In addition to the disciplinary actions faced by the individual students, the Student Activities Commission (SAC) voted on Feb. 6, 2017 to sanction GSC as a club. The sanction removes GSC leadership’s control over its budget and puts the club into a restoration process.
This editorial board recognizes that the sit-in was a GSC action, making it fair that the organization as a whole faces some sort of punishment. However, we believe that the personal sanctions faced by these eight individuals are unfair and excessive.
The university’s focus on sanctioning its students, in a manner more severe than is recommended, fails to consider the intent of these students. While they were in violation of the Code of Student Conduct, the actions were neither malicious nor harmful to students or staff. They were charged with two violations: unauthorized access and failure to comply with an official. Given their intent to peacefully protest against the harsh conditions faced by Nike workers, they should not be treated the same as any other violation of the Code of Conduct for unauthorized access and failure to comply with an official. The GSC members were acting as men and women for others in their protest, and should not face such a severe discipline for doing so.
We believe that activism should play an important role in the lives of students on campus, and we fear that these disciplinary actions will discourage future on-campus activism. The university must treat their disciplinary violations with nuance, and realize that the actions those students took were more than simple trespassing or refusal to follow orders.
The university prides itself on a set of values that includes creating men and women for others and care for the whole person. If Georgetown wants these values to be more than just words on a banner, then it must allow students to push the university, and themselves, to become better.