The GUSA Senate passed a resolution in support of a petition created by The Corp and the GUSA Executive urging Georgetown’s administration to establish the university as a sanctuary campus at their meeting on June 14, a move that would prevent the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) from entering campus in pursuit of protesters. The petition has 267 signatures as of June 17.
The petition is concerned with shielding demonstrators taking part in the nationwide protests that have emerged as a result of the systemic police violence against Black individuals. This would not be the first time Georgetown served as a haven for protestors, it points out, citing the 1971 May Day protests, which opposed the Nixon administration’s continuation of the Vietnam war.
“This call to protect the rights of students and our community must be answered as thousands of protestors will soon meet the uncertain and potentially dangerous response of local and national authorities,” the petition reads. “As the external authorities potentially criminalize those exercising their free speech, the violence will likely be disproportionately realized by Black and Brown communities.”
The petition reports that on May 3, 1971, thousands of protesters flocked to Georgetown’s campus in response to police pressure to leave West Potomac Park, where the protest had originally occurred. Students and faculty resisted MPD attempts to follow the protesters onto campus and prevented mass arrests and injury, though MPD reportedly used tear gas on the protesters and some students were harmed.
The Corp was founded by former GUSA President Roger Cochetti (SFS ‘72) and Vice-president Nancy Kent (COL ‘72) shortly after as a result of Georgetown’s inaction during the May Day protests, during which students were injured as MPD attempted to arrest protesters. The petition explains this joint history between the GUSA Executive and The Corp and refers to both as “institutions built to care for and protect student needs.”
Noting the potential that a situation similar to the one that occurred in 1971 could arise with the current protests, the petition calls on the university to prevent MPD presence on campus during the protests except in cases of sexual assault and active shooter threats.
Sen. Rowlie Flores (COL ‘22), who introduced the bill, emphasized the Senate’s role in protecting students’ freedom of expression. “Our freedom of speech is at line [sic] here, and I feel like we should have the right to express ourselves in times of injustice,” he said.
Sen. Lucy Sonsalla (SFS ‘23) concurred and argued that Georgetown’s Jesuit values obligate it to defend those seeking protection during the protests. “As a Jesuit institution, Georgetown is tasked by tradition, faith, the communal obligation to protect those who seek sanctuary and asylum,” she said. “To remain silent if our constituents, our fellow students in our Hoya family, were to be attacked on our home ground, especially when we’re able and obligated to defend them, would be akin to abandoning them for simply seeking free speech.”
The resolution passed non-unanimously by a voice vote. No senators spoke in opposition to the resolution.
The Senate also passed a bill to allocate the Senate’s budget for the 2020-2021 school year. The bill passed unanimously by a voice vote.
The next Senate meeting will be held on June 21 at 5 p.m. EST over Zoom.