Category: Messages to the Community

Title: Strengthening our Campus Community

Date Published: February 28, 2020

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

I write this evening to provide an update on a set of ongoing conversations and commitments to strengthen our campus community. 

Over the course of this week, during a protest in Healy Hall, the Black Survivors Coalition and senior leaders engaged in a series of conversations about proposals that our students had put forth about how we can build a more inclusive campus climate and improve our resources and our engagement with students, particularly Black students and students of color.

When I met with the students on Monday, and again earlier this evening, I shared with them that our goal for every member of our community is flourishing–the work of becoming our most authentic selves. We are always seeking to identify those barriers—internal and external—which can block the work of formation. 

Our students described experiences of trauma and pain that are profoundly at odds with the institution that we are trying to be. These experiences include encounters in our classrooms, residence halls, administrative offices, support centers–involving peers, staff, faculty. These experiences undermine the trust that is a necessary foundation for our work. Our students have offered crucial insights into experiences that we cannot accept within our community, and we are determined to enhance our campus climate so that students can feel a deep sense of belonging.

On Wednesday evening, Rosemary Kilkenny, Esq. (L’87), Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, and Todd Olson, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs, provided our community with an initial formal response. I now share with you the fuller framework that has emerged. We see these commitments as the start of our work, not its completion. 

We should seek to be a model of an academic community striving to ensure that the conditions are in place that will enable each of us to flourish: to identify the elements– the structures, resources, and practices–that will enable us to become our most authentic selves. This is what we expect of ourselves, as a community; and when we fall short, we recognize the imperative to act. 

A commitment to the flourishing of each member of our community is inextricable from our understanding of our past, our present, and the enduring and persistent legacies of slavery, segregation, discrimination, and other forms of exclusion that have marked our history. 

The witness and testimony of our students over these past days has called forth urgent questions: How can we truly recognize and acknowledge one another?  How can we respect the inherent dignity of each of our lives?  How can we honor and celebrate our differences while seeking to deepen our understanding of one another? How can we create the conditions for trust?

We have an opportunity to take the next steps in developing our University and building a culture that ensures the very best conditions for all of us to thrive–together–as members of our community. 

I look forward to the work we can do together.


John J. DeGioia