I first heard of them when I applied for my job at Georgetown 12 years ago.

Of course you know about Joe and Jane Hoya, a longtime faculty member and administrator told me.

Of course, I didn’t. Why would I?

This man seemed almost to be apologizing for them. Yet he seemed at the same time to be warning me that they are a fact of life on this campus, a phenomenon that any newcomer must be aware of and deal with.

Joe and Jane Hoya. They sound cute and cuddly, like maybe a pair of naughty-but-lovable beagles who serve as the school mascots.

No, wait, that’s Jack the Bulldog.

These Hoyas are real people. Sort of. They are enduring archetypes, but everyone agrees that there are flesh-and-blood students here who fit the mold. Descriptions vary, sometimes based on clothes or on behavior or on educational or geographic background. Most assumptions, though, have this in common: Joe and Jane are white – most likely of the Irish Catholic variety – and they are affluent.

This is highly problematic.

It is problematic because we as a community accept the existence of these Hoyas not as mascots or even as caricatures, but as people who walk among us and represent the essence of Georgetown.

It does not matter that many speak of them more in good-natured scorn than in pride. What matters is that – like Sasquatch or the Easter Bunny – we believe in them, and that belief is woven into the fabric of the culture of this place.

But a great university cannot afford to have its reputation, even internally, based on who the stereotypical students are and where they come from. There is so much more that could, and should, define us: academic excellence, commitment to service, devotion to faith, respect for diversity, determination to have a positive impact on the world. These are the values we tell ourselves and the public that we hold dear.

Yet we allow ourselves to be embodied by cartoon twins who symbolize little more than multigenerational privilege and an uncanny ability to get into law school after four years without a sober weekend. Most dangerously, they root us in a “tradition” that obscures 40 years of academic and pluralistic progress that, quiet as it’s kept, are closely entwined. (Remember, even Jane was probably an afterthought.)

Why are we not represented by the best among us?

Why are we not represented by the Chinese-Indian Rhodes candidate who graduated magna after building a career based on political activism and social justice; or by the low-income white student who won a Lena Landegger Community Service Award for extensive prison-outreach work based on empathy, not pity; or by the Latina who immersed herself in women’s and immigrants’ rights struggles and curricular reform; or by the black kid from Arkansas who sang and hugged his way into hundreds of hearts on campus and whose joyful faith brought them all together as no one else could?

No one ever mistook any of these students for Joe or Jane Hoya. And of course, there are thousands more on the Hilltop every year, not just the academic and extracurricular stars, but the everyday Hoyas who do their work and have their fun but flinch at references to their eponymous classmates who we allow to symbolize the “true” Georgetown.

We should be bigger and better than this. But we will never be the world-class institution we aspire to be if we continue to believe in Joe and Jane. It is time for them to go.

Dennis Williams is the associate dean of students and director of the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access.

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