To the Future Leaders of Georgetown
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 23:09
Four years simply isn’t enough time. When I came to Georgetown for the first time in the spring of my junior year of college, it seemed like May 2014 was an eternity away. Yesterday, I updated the Senior Class Committee’s graduation countdown and was shocked to see that we have just over seven months left. Only recently have I come to realize how special the Hilltop is and how important it is that we all take time to give back — not just in time or money — but in the way we help build the campus today for future students.
Over the past four years, I’ve witnessed an incredible variety of campus policy debates and discussions. Freshman year we saw SAFE Reform, last year witnessed the completion of the 2010 Campus Plan, and the change from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing” policy for on-campus disciplinary incidents. And with the recent Satellite Campus Residence controversy, this year is shaping up to follow the trend.
There is a kind of flow to these debates: First a new policy or proposal is announced by the university, students respond with unbridled outraged and then slowly but surely a compromise is reached. Freshman year it seemed to me that there were university officials sitting somewhere in Healy Hall plotting how to make life miserable for undergraduates. Now I realize that that this is obviously not the case, and that this pattern does not lead to productive results.
Part of what makes Georgetown so special is how much students care about it. It took me a while to understand what “women and men for others” meant, but I think a part of that is shown every day in how student leaders on campus work not only for themselves and their clubs, but for everyone.
I spent my first two years on the Hilltop thinking that the Georgetown University Student Association was a group of people who liked to hear themselves talk, and that the university would make its decisions regardless of what Calen and Jason or Mike and Greg did or said (boy do I feel old writing those names).
Since then I’ve come to a better understanding of how campus politics function. One observation I’ve garnered since freshman year is that starting petitions and protesting in Red Square is useful, but working with the university will get you much farther than working against it.
The typical flow of debate that I felt occurred freshman year seems to be repeating itself with the One Georgetown, One Campus campaign: a feeling that the university is making a decision without any input and with a secret desire to harm student life. We must fight the urge to engage in the knee-jerk reaction and instead engage in dialogue and discussion.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the forum that started the outrage over the satellite campus, and I’ve found the change in tone from the beginning of the meeting to now to be remarkable. What started out as an invitation from university administrators to provide thoughts on the future of Georgetown Housing has devolved into a one-sided conversation about how the Hilltop is our home, and anyone who opposes that view is anti-Georgetown. The productive conversations that can occur in both small meetings and large town halls are something that should be encouraged, not replaced by outrage and indignation.
We must take to heart that wonderful Jesuit phrase posted on signs all throughout campus: contemplation in action. The constant flow of students onto and off of the hilltop makes it hard to have a sense of long-term perspective, but if you trust and engage in the system — in conversations that lead to productive outcomes — this will be a better place not just for us now, but for future Georgetown undergraduates.
We’ve come so far in how we engage with — and are engaged by — the university that to turn back the clock and start fighting our battles rather than working through our issues together is detrimental to everyone.