Members of the Georgetown community were given a reminder of the hazards that Department of Public Safety officers face last September when three officers were injured on the job protecting Georgetown students (“Fight on Campus Causes Injuries” THE HOYA, Sept. 19, 2006, A1). The incident was highly publicized on campus, and it brought to light for everyone – not just those of us who walked by the blood-spattered ground outside of the Reiss Science Building – the real danger DPS officers face daily.

DPS officers risk their lives every time they come to work to protect our campus. When famous dignitaries come to Georgetown, they are the first line of defense. When armed robberies, burglaries and other potentially dangerous situations are reported, DPS officers are the first to respond.

I bring the grievances of DPS officers to the attention of the Georgetown community because on Wednesday, the contract between the DPS officers’ union and Georgetown expired. DPS officers are hoping to negotiate a new contract with the university and continue to work to protect us without one.

In these negotiations, DPS is asking for certain changes to improve working conditions. Among these changes are requests for more equipment, a raise, sick days and more training so that officers are less likely to be hurt, as they were at the Henle fight.

The DPS officers’ union negotiates a new contract with the university every three years. In return for increased wages, the union must be prepared to give up such benefits as sick leave and better protection, like bullet-proof vests. Is this fair?

Base pay rates have only increased from $11.20 per hour to $12.50 per hour in the past six years. By comparison, two years ago, the GU Living Wage Coalition was able to secure a pay rate of $14.93 per hour for all of Georgetown’s subcontracted workers. Shouldn’t we treat our own employees at least as well?

Literally adding insult to injury, the officers who were injured in September received less than 70 percent of their normal wages for the time they had to take off work in order to recover.

But unlike September’s incident, the meager compensation and benefits offered to DPS officers have not been published in campus newspapers. In addition to compensation, DPS officers are demanding more from Georgetown to ensure their safety while they protect our campus.

DPS officers are routinely called upon to provide security for high-profile speakers and dignitaries, but they are not afforded the same protection as their counterparts in Metropolitan Police Department and the Secret Service.

Recently a number of experienced, veteran officers, feeling disrespected and unappreciated, have left Georgetown for jobs where the pay is a better reflection of a living wage in the District of Columbia.

Officers no longer receive paid sick days, a basic benefit of most jobs. This benefit was removed in return for better wages several years ago when the DPS officers’ union renegotiated their contract.

DPS officers work day and night to ensure that certain measures are adequately met in order to guarantee our safety. Why does the university refuse to make the needs of DPS a priority? Would University President John J. DeGioia and the rest of the Georgetown administration put their lives on the line for the protection of the student body?

The demands of DPS officers are for basic worker’s rights to which any Georgetown worker is entitled. Negotiation sessions with the university provide a venue for the university to hear the demands of the officers. The contract deadline has already passed, making it all the more essential that Georgetown meet with DPS officers.

Many of these officers have worked here for over 13 years, and through their experience they know what is necessary to protect us. If Georgetown does not live up to what DPS officers are asking, more good officers will be unable to afford to stay at Georgetown.

The Georgetown community as a whole must stay aware of how the university responds to the demands of the DPS officers. The university must meet their reasonable requests for change and ensure that the new DPS contract lives up to the university’s commitment to social justice.

Rachel Murray is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and a member of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee.

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