GUSA Senate condemns blog post written by a Georgetown student

July 8, 2020

The GUSA Senate passed a resolution condemning the message of a blog post written by Georgetown student William Mitchell Torgerson (COL ’22) at their meeting on July 6. 

The post details Torgerson’s skepticism regarding the existence of systemic racism in the U.S. It also describes various ways he believes that the U.S. is failing to live up to its founding principles and the Constitution, but the GUSA resolution is primarily concerned with the stance the article takes towards racial discrimination. This resolution, which condemns Torgenson’s skepticism of the existence of systemic racism, follows other recent efforts by the GUSA Senate to support the Black Lives Matter movement, including resolutions in favor of police reform and recognizing Juneteenth as a university holiday. 

Torgenson’s post argues that systemic racism does not exist and that movements such as Black Lives Matter are the result of left-wing propaganda. “Black Lives Matter is a movement entirely based in unfalsifiable ideological possession… if you support this group, your emotions are being manipulated,” it reads. “The United States of America is not systemically racist today. This sheer volume of left-leaning ideological possession is suffocating and inherently damaging to those possessed.”

In response to this post’s circulation among the student body, Sen. Sofia Negrete-Retamales (COL ’23) introduced the bill which emphasized the Senate’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment for students of color. 

“This resolution is meant to condemn the language and the message that the article sends,” she said. “Both GUSA and Georgetown have committed to standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and this resolution is specifically to condemn the language that goes against the Black Lives Matter movement.

In addition to condemning these ideas, the Senate resolution criticizes another blog post written by Torgerson. The resolution argues that a screenshot of a now-deleted entry of Torgerson’s personal blog contains harmful language directed at individuals with depression. “Depression needs to be stigmatized! Being depressed is not normal!” the post reads.

The Senate recommended that members of the student body file bias reports in response to Torgerson’s posts and urged university administration to investigate these reports, but did not recommend that Torgerson face disciplinary action.

Sen. Joseph Yacovone (COL ’22) spoke against the bill, arguing it represented an attack on Torgerson as an individual and thus violated his right to freedom of speech. “Instead of debating this article’s validity, we’re openly calling for the university to consider punishing [Torgerson] and censoring him for expressing contrary opinions,” he said.

Defending the bill from these accusations, Sen. Lucy Sonsalla (COL ’23) argued the Senate also has the right to condemn specific messages and to request Georgetown investigate student conduct. “The Senate is well within their rights to request that Georgetown examine this literature and ascertain whether or not it is worthy of a disciplinary action,” she said. “They are not demanding action or censorship. Just as the article is free speech, so is the bill.”

The resolution passed non-unanimously by a voice vote. There were no abstentions.

The Senate also passed a resolution calling for Georgetown to prioritize the incoming senior class in its decision regarding fall 2020 housing.

Earlier in the day, the university released its plan for the fall semester in which it announced it would be allowing just 2,000 students to live on campus, including the entirety of the first-year class. The resolution argued that Georgetown should instead guarantee housing for the senior class.

Sen. Lily McGrail (COL ’21) introduced the bill and argued Georgetown was unfairly prioritizing the freshman class, taking away spots from seniors and students with housing needs. 

“Making all freshmen come back to campus makes 1,600 spaces go away. That only leaves a very small amount. Alternatively, bringing seniors back would only bring around maybe 400 students back to campus and would leave a significant number for students who need to come back,” she said. “Seniors have devoted three years to Georgetown already, and we’re being robbed of our very last year.”

Speaking in opposition to the bill, Sen. Shirley Tang (COL ’22) said Georgetown should prioritize providing housing to students with unstable housing situations instead of choosing one particular graduating class. “We need to prioritize students with need over a certain class,” she said. “This resolution creates a precedent of struggle Olympics for different classes, and it implies that the senior experiences are more important than freshman experiences.”

The resolution passed with nine votes in favor, six votes in opposition, and one abstention.

The Senate passed a third piece of legislation recommending Georgetown extend the deadline to request a leave of absence and clarify the process for appealing financial aid packages.

Previously, the deadline for freshmen to defer their admission to Georgetown until next year was May 1. The resolution also reports that the policy for taking a gap year has yet to be institutionalized; instead, students request a leave of absence through their academic deans. Instead, the resolution recommends that Georgetown establishes a formal process for taking a gap year and that the deadline for doing so be extended to the first day of classes.

The resolution also noted that financial aid awards were determined using financial information from before COVID-19. Because the pandemic led to widespread economic hardship, it argued, students might receive less aid than necessary for them to continue attending Georgetown.

In light of this, the resolution requested that Georgetown allow students to appeal to receive more financial aid in light of new economic circumstances and that the university communicate the details of the appeals process through a campus-wide email.

The resolution passed unanimously by a voice vote. There were no abstentions.

Finally, the Senate passed a bill to amend the GUSA bylaws to institutionalize the What’s A Hoya? program as an official organization under the jurisdiction of the GUSA executive.

The program was previously an unofficial initiative for first-year students that explains various aspects of student life and provides freshmen with housing points. While the program was led by GUSA, it lacked official status as an organization. The Senate resolution recognizes What’s a Hoya? and gives the director of the organization membership in the GUSA Executive cabinet.

The resolution passed unanimously by a voice vote.

The Senate will hold their next meeting on July 19 at 5 p.m. EST over Zoom.

Ethan Greer
Ethan is an assistant news editor for the Voice and a sophomore in the College. In his free time he enjoys eating copious amounts of Chipotle.

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What a pathetic and hypocritical group.

John McAdams

The little social justice warriors who constantly prate about “diversity” go completely bananas when faced with any diversity of opinion. Virtually all of the supposed “systematic racism” is actually a result of dysfunction in the black community. Blacks disproportionately imprisoned? Blacks commit crime at a much higher rate than whites. Blacks more likely to do poorly in school? Not having a daddy (72% of black kids are born out of wedlock) points you in that direction. But the little social justice warriors live in their own little self-important, self-satisfied world.

Kiren Chaudry

A governing student body creating a resolution against the use of freedom of speech and condemning any language that goes against an extremely left-leaning movement is not the same as an individual condemning or disagreeing with Torgerson. It is not freedom of speech, it is the opposite: censorship. These are the people who want to be and will become future politicians, if they don’t understand this distinction, we should be very concerned.

[…] response, the Georgetown University Student Association Senate passed a now hidden resolution condemning the post, as well as another, now-deleted post where Torgerson argued that depression should be […]