Georgetown parents petition to open campus for spring 2021

October 27, 2020

Healy Hall is a focal point on campus. Photo by John Woolley

As the virtual school year progresses, students and parents are eagerly awaiting Georgetown’s plans for the spring 2021 semester. However, some parents, united on Facebook and through a petition, know exactly what they are hoping for—Georgetown in-person. 

On Oct. 13, the group of parents decided to devise a petition entitled “Open Georgetown University” to push the school to offer in-person classes and on-campus housing for the upcoming semester. As of Oct. 26, the petition had almost 1,200 of the 1,500 requested signatures. 

The petition is just the latest iteration of this discussion among parents, who began to vocalize their frustrations to one another in Facebook groups last month. “We are all really upset that the communication from Georgetown has been abysmal. We are all frustrated. We are worried they will continue the ‘status quo’ of online learning and no one on campus,” one parent wrote in a comment in the Georgetown University Parents group on Sept. 25. 

“They are the only Jesuit college that is not in person on campus in some shape or form. They are also the only school in the Big East that is not on campus. All they do is threaten the kids who are there and living in the neighborhoods. They need a plan.”

According to the Washington Post, 34 percent of 1,442 four-year U.S. colleges and universities tracked by researchers at Davidson College were teaching fully or primarily in person, while 37 percent were utilizing an online learning model for the fall semester.  

The New York Times has reported more than 35,000 COVID-19 cases within U.S. colleges since early October, and over 207,000 total cases since late July. 

In September, parents created the “Students and Parents Advocating for Georgetown Students on Campus” Facebook page. The page currently holds 554 members of the community and includes a copy of a letter that was sent to the administration on Sept. 21 with hopes of gaining clarification on next semester. 

“Is it imperative that the Class of 2024, who missed prom, graduation, and innumerable other once-in-a-lifetime high school experiences, is allowed to have what remains of their freshman year on campus? We believe the answer to this question is an emphatic and overwhelming yes,” the letter, written by a collection of parents, reads.

According to the parents, the petition was created in reaction to a non-committal response to their letter from Georgetown. In the provided description, the founder “Georgetown University Back on Campus” states that the “negative social and emotional effects of remote learning are taking a toll.  It is likely that these [new] students will be less engaged members of the Georgetown University for the long-term. Students must have the opportunity to be a part of the Georgetown Community and the benefit of in-person learning which is only truly possible if they are on campus.” It then asks the administration be more transparent and frequent in its COVID-19 communications to the Georgetown community. 

In addition to signatures, the petition has received dozens of supportive comments. “My son deserves the right to an educational experience that includes being involved in campus research and campus involvement at Georgetown University. Having him sit in our basement and looking at a computer screen is not healthy mentally or emotionally,” parent Sarah Simms wrote in a comment.“It should be each individual’s choice to live on campus, not the school’s. If someone is scared of COVID-19, then stay at home. If not, give them a place to reside and get the education they deserve.” 

Many of the comments echo the theme that students were promised something when they decided to attend Georgetown they have been denied this virtual semester. 

“My son chose Georgetown for the opportunity to learn in community with an amazing group of peers. Learning in isolation is difficult and immeasurably limiting. It is no kind of solution to the challenges of today. Our students need to be on campus,” parent Walton Foster wrote.

Parents of freshmen and seniors alike have taken to the petition to express their disappointment with their student’s situations and the landmarks they have been missing out on due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The Class of 2024 has lost so much already with their second semester senior year of high school and now the first semester of college. Georgetown is my daughter’s dream school and there is no substitute for being on campus. Other universities are making it work, there is no doubt that Georgetown is up for the challenge and the students are ready to partner in that opportunity,” parent Darlene Rowley wrote.

Parent Jill Watson came at the question from the other side. “It’s my daughter’s senior year, and she deserves to end her 4 years at Georgetown with a positive experience,” she wrote. 

In an email sent out earlier this month, President John DeGioia revealed the university’s plans to finalize a decision on the spring by Nov. 16.  Course registration, leave of absence return, and tuition assessment and billing deadlines have since been pushed back to reflect this impending announcement.  

Sophie Tafazzoli
Sophie is an assistant news editor and a sophomore in the College studying Government and pursuing a minor in Journalism. She is currently living in Los Angeles and loves a good icebreaker.

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