Category: Messages to Faculty, Messages to Staff, Messages to Students, Messages to the Community

Title: Update on April 29 Hate Crime and Commitments to Strengthen Our Response to Hate Crimes and Bias-Related Incidents

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

We write today to provide an update and information on a racially-motivated hate crime that occurred on the Main Campus on April 29, 2022; to share a set of commitments that Georgetown has made to strengthen our framework for responding to hate crimes and bias-related incidents and supporting affected students; and to apologize for ways we have fallen short in addressing this incident.

We make these commitments following conversations this week with a diverse group of students who have expressed their views during protests in Healy Hall and a march across campus on December 7, 2022, and in a series of meetings with administrators. We thank these students for their advocacy and apologize that they did not have the level of support and care we strive to provide all members of our community.

Background on April 29 Hate Crime

On April 29, 2022, racist epithets and threats of violence were shouted at a Black student sitting outside the New South residence hall from a window several stories up. Georgetown condemned this incident in a message sent to New South residents asking for additional information and in a campus-wide newsletter. The Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD) immediately began an investigation of the incident, initially classified it as a bias-related incident, and referred it to relevant university offices for further action. After careful reconsideration of information that has been provided, we are notifying the community that this was reclassified as a hate crime on December 6, 2022.

Our Values and an Apology

Acts of racism and hate have no place at Georgetown. We are committed to being a campus that welcomes people of all faiths, races, ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities, abilities and backgrounds. We do not tolerate discrimination or harassment in violation of university policies.

We are grateful for the courage of the student who has come forward to share her experience of the hurt and pain caused by this incident, and we have heard the concerns expressed by students about our response. The advocacy of these students has illuminated the ways in which we have not lived up to our shared commitment to ensure that all of our students – and particularly students of color – feel supported by the university. We acknowledge the pain this has caused students and members of our community and the seriousness of the concerns that have been expressed, and we apologize.

Commitments and Resources

Today, we share below a set of commitments dedicated to improving how we support students impacted by hate crimes and bias-related incidents. We have a Bias Reporting System, and several offices work together to respond to these incidents when reported, which may lead to an investigation, following which the university can hold individuals accountable for their acts. Any member of the Georgetown community can make a report about a possible bias-related incident or file a complaint with IDEAA. We are committed to enhancing this system through internal and external reviews, we will be adding resources to provide additional support to students going through the reporting process, and we are making a long-term commitment regarding the Black Survivors Coalition Community Providers Initiative. Mental and emotional well-being resources are also available via our Every Hoya Cares online resource center.

We are committed to continuing to engage with students to ensure the best possible environment for all students to flourish at Georgetown. We hope you will read about these commitments below; again, we express our appreciation to the students for sharing their stories and demanding the best of our university community.

Sincerely,

Rosemary E. Kilkenny, Esq.
Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer

Jeanne Lord, Ed.D.
Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Jay Gruber
Chief of Police
Associate Vice President for Public Safety

 


 

Georgetown University Commitments to Strengthen Our Response to Hate Crimes and Bias-Related Incidents

Student Conduct Consequences

The abhorrent behavior involved in this incident is a clear violation of Georgetown’s Code of Student Conduct (“Code”). Per the Code, the Office of Student Conduct is committed to the timely resolution of all student conduct matters. If a specific individual is found responsible for this violation, they will be held accountable and sanctioned by the university. Georgetown’s Code of Student Conduct includes bias-related conduct as an aggravating factor that results in more significant sanctions for a violation of the Code. Per the Office of Student Conduct’s Sanctioning Guidelines, the likely sanction for this behavior is suspension or dismissal.

Addressing Communications About April 29 Hate Crime

We are sorry that the way the university communicated was insufficient, and we commit to addressing this issue so that it does not happen in the future. While we strongly condemned this incident and asked for information to aid the investigation in a message sent to New South residents on April 30 and in the May 2 campus climate newsletter, we did not send a separate message to the university community specifically about this incident with details about it and information about resources to support our community, and we did not bring these messages to the attention of the impacted student at the time they were sent.

Communications Regarding Bias-Related Incidents and Hate Crimes

We are committed to expeditiously reviewing best practices for communicating about bias-related incidents that are not classified as a hate crime to ensure a consistent communications framework, and we will share the results with the community. We are also committed to sending an email message any time a hate crime occurs on our campus or on public property adjacent to campus. A case may be classified as a hate crime at the time of the incident, or it may be determined to be a hate crime at a later stage of the investigation.

Explanation Regarding Hate Crime Classification, Daily Crime Log and Lost Video Footage

Hate Crime Classification and Daily Crime Log

The report filed on April 29, 2022, was originally classified as a bias-related incident, not as a hate crime. For that reason, it was not initially published in GUPD’s daily crime log. After careful reconsideration of information that has been provided, it was reclassified as a hate crime on December 6, 2022, and published in the daily crime log.

Under the Clery Act, the federal law governing the reporting of campus crime data, “hate crime” is a criminal offense that manifests evidence that the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim.  For Clery Act purposes, hate crimes include any of the following criminal offenses that are motivated by bias: Murder and Non-negligent Manslaughter, Sexual Assault, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Burglary, Motor Vehicle Theft, Arson, Larceny-Theft, Simple Assault, Intimidation, Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property. Consistent with the Clery Act, hate crimes on property owned or controlled by Georgetown, or on public property immediately adjacent to campus, are reported in the university’s daily crime log and in its Annual Security Report.

Video Footage

Upon receiving the report of this appalling incident, GUPD immediately began an investigation, performing a witness canvas and reviewing GOCard swipes and security footage to identify potential suspects who entered New South near the time of the incident. There was no GUPD video footage of the actual incident. Between May 2-6, 2022, GUPD reviewed video footage of individuals entering New South on April 29, 2022, and developed potential suspects based on that footage. Still photos of potential suspects were taken and saved based on the video, and GOCard data obtained by GUPD were preserved. On May 6, 2022, GUPD provided a full report to other university offices, including the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action (IDEAA). During the student conduct investigation, when the Office of Student Conduct contacted GUPD to request access to additional video footage from April 29, 2022, it was discovered that the video server had failed and, as a result, the video footage of students entering and exiting New South throughout that day had been lost.

We regret that this video footage was lost, and we apologize that we did not clearly convey the circumstances related to the lost video footage at the time.

GUPD has taken action to prevent this issue from occurring in the future, and new servers have been installed. In general, it is GUPD’s practice to save video footage for 45 to 60 days, and GUPD preserves any video footage relevant to an ongoing investigation for as long as necessary.

Communal Space and Review of Funding

We have heard from members of the Black Leadership Forum that there is a need for more communal meeting space. We are committed to exploring the best possible solutions for additional communal space, including access to communal space after normal business hours on short notice.

We are committed to reviewing the Student of Color Alliance’s funding during the Spring 2023 semester, as well as resources for other important programs that have been identified.

Extension of the Black Survivors Coalition Community Providers

We are making a long-term commitment to keeping the same level of support that the Black Survivors Coalition Community Providers have provided to our students, either through maintaining the current framework of that initiative or through providing equivalent services by enhancing internal resources here at Georgetown. This effort is a multi-year and ongoing project. The treatment initiative will continue for up to five years, and the university will strive to enhance internal resources sooner.

Internal Review of April 29 Hate Crime Investigation

The Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and other colleagues not involved in the investigatory procedures have been reviewing how this case was handled by the Office of Student Conduct, GUPD and IDEAA. We are making enhancements to our procedures where appropriate, and key findings and changes will be communicated to the community. We are committed to working expeditiously on this review.

External Review of Georgetown’s Handling of Hate Crimes and Bias-Related Incidents

We are committed to an external review of Georgetown’s framework for handling hate crimes and bias-related incidents, which will begin in the Spring 2023 semester. If enhancements to our framework are recommended, we will communicate them to the community.

We publish a report of the University’s Bias Reporting System each year. We intend to review this report with students and discuss elements of it that might be adjusted going forward.

Role of Testimonial Evidence in IDEAA Investigations

IDEAA’s investigatory practices include the consideration of witness testimony.

Institutional Framework for Supporting Students Impacted by Hate Crimes and Bias-Related Incidents

We are committed to enhancing our institutional framework for supporting students impacted by bias-related incidents, including staff dedicated to assisting students navigate the reporting process and access support resources.

 


 

Update (12/9/22)

On December 9, 2022, students and administrators met to discuss next steps following the December 8 message and the University’s commitments. We include below updates and additional information.

Information on Reporting Hate Crimes and Bias-Related Incidents

There are multiple avenues for members of the Georgetown community to file a report of a possible hate crime or bias-related incident. A report filed in one office will be reviewed and, if needed, referred to other offices as appropriate. More information about the University’s Bias Reporting System can be found on the Bias Reporting website.

  • Hate Crimes: Any member of the Georgetown community can make a report about a possible hate crime to GUPD at (202) 687-4343 or the Georgetown Law Campus Department of Public Safety (DPS) at (202) 662-9325.
  • Bias-Related Incidents: Any member of the Georgetown community can make a report about a possible bias-related incident or file a complaint with the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action (IDEAA).

Information About Next Steps on Commitments

In January 2023, we will begin meetings on the following topics:

  • Best possible solutions for additional communal space,
  • Review of the Student of Color Alliance’s funding, as well as resources for other important programs that have been identified,
  • Next steps regarding enhancing our institutional framework for supporting students impacted by bias-related incidents, including staff dedicated to assisting students navigate the reporting process and access support resources,
  • Approach to communicating about bias-related incidents that are not classified as a hate crime to ensure a consistent communications framework.

We will also develop an annual status update about developments related to the Black Survivors Coalition Community Providers and to the University’s efforts to enhance internal resources here at Georgetown.

We are committed to sustained dialogue and to making progress on commitments during the spring 2023 semester.

Additional updates will be provided as steps are taken.