One of the reasons that I fell in love with Georgetown University as an impressionable yet hopeful high school senior was the students who occupy its halls.
I toured the campus on a gorgeous fall afternoon and saw community, from the members of the Georgetown University Grilling Society grilling together to the sea of tables in Red Square advocating for every worthy cause I’d heard of at that time in my life. As my tour wound through the front of campus, the one aspect of my tour that shocked me more than the pronouncement that Lauinger Library is allegedly a modern interpretation of Healy Hall was how impressed I was with the Georgetown student body. I saw, and still do, one of the most interesting and intelligent, active and lively, caring and compassionate groups of people I’d ever seen in my life. I wanted nothing more than to be a Hoya and sing the fight song at the top of my lungs.
Since coming to Georgetown, I’ve only become more amazed by this university and its community: I feel the campus-wide call to be “men and women for others,” and I see it in my fellow Hoyas. I know Hoyas engaging in advocacy, service and public interest work in the District of Columbia, effecting change both nationally and internationally. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering: where has all of that positive, altruistic energy gone?
There has been a slew of articles in on-campus publications recently that point out the negative aspects of Georgetown’s culture, from discrimination to the lack of mental health and sexual assault survivor resources on campus. An ostensible trend among many of the recent articles — though certainly not all — is that the onus of solving these pervasive campus problems is placed nearly exclusively on the Georgetown University administration.
Certainly, the university administration plays a huge role in structural campus change, mainly in allocating funding and propagating policies. But, I wonder if we’re missing another piece of the puzzle.
One of the Jesuit ideals that makes Georgetown the place I love so much is the idea of being men and women for others. Hoyas use the privilege of our education to affect the world positively. So why is it that we are pushing the responsibility of solving our problems here on the Hilltop onto others and expecting resolution? There are certainly countless advocates on this campus who do more for furthering important causes than the majority of us in the student body will ever know, but what we need in order to fix these problems outside the world of policy and funding is to be men and women for others, as we are called to be, here and now.
This is a considerable task, going beyond what is normally expected of us, but if we all share the weight, I am confident that we can carry it.
What if some of the positive, beneficial energy of the Georgetown student body is focused internally? What if, when we see someone crying on a bench alone, we fight past the awkwardness and ask how he’s doing? What if, when we see another Hoya in a potentially dangerous situation that may be the result of drugs or alcohol, we take advantage of the Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service’s amnesty policy and call for medical attention? What if, when we see someone in an altered mental state who is unable to give free and enthusiastic consent to anything — let alone sexual activity — in a situation where his safety, dignity and health may be compromised, we practiced safe bystander intervention? What if — in the grand tradition of Neville Longbottom, an underrated hero if there ever was one — we stood up to our own friends when they did something hurtful, dangerous or against the rules or the law?
We would be creating a culture in which reaching out to our fellow Hoyas is the rule rather than the exception, and we would be working in conjunction with campus advocates who fight for a change at the administrative level to solve campus problems.
I’m not advocating for anything outside the capacity of Georgetown students’ abilities: we have all the tools to be men and women for others, here and now; we just have to use them. University administration is fundamental in effecting campus-wide change, but so are the students of Georgetown, and we can make a difference one by one or in droves; in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Charlotte Glasser is a rising junior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. An Apple a Day appears every other Wednesday at thehoya.com.
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