Letter to the Editor: GU’s commitment to migrant worker welfare in Qatar

February 23, 2018

Since Georgetown’s founding in 1789, Catholic and Jesuit values have driven our educational mission, rooted in social justice, service to others, and the common good. Today, we have become a global community and are advancing these Jesuit values worldwide through research, teaching, and outreach.

Our world faces a number of complex and consequential challenges. Georgetown has been—and will continue to be—at the forefront of dialogue and actions that address critical global issues. We believe that fostering positive change requires decisive, collaborative, and innovative leadership.

That is why Georgetown’s Washington campus is home to more than 2,500 international students of over 125 different nationalities. It is why we offer hundreds of study abroad programs and collaborate with hundreds of international stakeholders. It is why there are more than 15,000 Hoya alumni living and working abroad today.

It is also why we opened Georgetown University-Qatar (GU-Q). We believe that further advancing our Jesuit values in an interconnected and globalized society requires engagement throughout diverse parts of the world.

The Georgetown Voice Editorial Board has expressed concerns (Time To Quit Qatar, Feb. 9) about the rights of migrant workers in Qatar, including those at GU-Q. Consistent with its Jesuit mission, Georgetown has worked since the founding of GU-Q to protect and provide for the welfare of the workers on our campus in Qatar.

There are more than 120 migrant workers providing services at GU-Q, and each is a valued, integral part of our community. Protecting their health, safety, and rights is essential to our mission in Qatar, and we take this responsibility seriously.

When the GU-Q campus was first built, we worked with the Qatar Foundation to implement a safety program consistent with U.S. labor standards that protected construction workers. Because of our program, the campus was built with no lost-time incidents due to injuries.

We hold all our contractors to Qatar Foundation’s Mandatory Standards of Migrant Workers’ Welfare for Contractors & Sub-Contractors, which are recognized throughout Qatar as a model for protecting workers and their rights.

In Jan. 2017, we partnered with the Qatar Foundation to establish a Joint Task Force on Migrant Worker Welfare and have spent the past year implementing its recommendations. Comprised of senior leaders from Georgetown and the Qatar Foundation, the task force has been researching best practices, interviewing worker welfare experts, and consulting with the non-profit labor rights group, Verite, to further enhance migrant worker welfare at GU-Q.

Our task force recommended a number of policy improvements that we are already implementing. From training contractors on our expectations regarding migrant worker welfare plans, to enhancing contractor monitoring and auditing processes, and making it easier for workers to understand their rights and report grievances, we are proactively and continuously striving to improve worker welfare at GU-Q and beyond.

We are committed to creating a campus community at GU-Q that is safe and inclusive for migrant workers as well as our faculty, staff, and students. Our GU-Q campus welcomes people of all ages, races, religions, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities. In a region that is continuing to make progress on important social issues, we are proud to promote the tolerance and acceptance of all identities.

As a Jesuit university, we believe participating in the global community is a productive and meaningful way to promote the values we champion. Our Jesuit values have guided our mission for centuries, and animate our sense of responsibility to promote migrant worker welfare in Qatar.

We recognize that there are challenges ahead, but we are committed to the continued improvement of conditions for migrant workers on our own campus and throughout the region.

Robert M. Groves is the Executive Vice President and Provost at Georgetown University. He is also the Gerard J. Campbell, S.J. Professor in the Math and Statistics Department and the Sociology Department.

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[…] a response from Groves, according to Almond’s Facebook page. Groves’ reply included a link to a February letter to the editor published in the Georgetown Voice discussing steps the university has taken to protect workers at […]