Student organizations at Georgetown University are not able to fully utilize their budgets. A prohibitive Georgetown University Police Department security requirement extorts clubs of money that should be spent on students.

Currently, student organizations are required to hire at least one GUPD security officer for events that are “controversial,” have amplified sound or draw more than 75 participants, per university policy. Security costs — paid for by club budgets — quickly tally up, with a $52.25 hourly rate per GUPD officer and four-hour minimum mandated by the university.

These burdensome security costs are a misappropriation of student funds and prohibit clubs from hosting events that stimulate campus discourse. To ensure clubs can devote their money to elevating students’ experience, Georgetown should reduce arbitrary security requirements for clubs on campus by removing the four-hour security minimum.

GUPD implemented the stringent guidelines in 2015, requiring clubs to hire an officer for events with high expected attendance or any event deemed necessary as a response to “world, regional and local events,” according to its website. While security is necessary to ensure student safety, GUPD’s current policy presents a conflict of interest and perpetuates an obstructive cost.

These burdensome requirements mean that the minimum cost for an event with 75 participants is $209 — a number that increases with every additional 75 attendees. An event in Gaston Hall, which can seat 743 people, would cost a minimum of $2,090 in security fees.

Though GUPD’s hourly security rate is about eight dollars cheaper than the Metropolitan Police Department’s rate of $65.45 per officer, the university’s four-hour minimum for students’ events unnecessarily hikes costs for student organizations. Most Georgetown events rarely run longer than one hour, and almost none come close to the four-hour minimum.

While the four-hour minimum may be meant to compensate officers for the extra time spent coming in to work, even factoring transportation into total working time would not total four hours, especially with an average event time of one hour.

Requiring students to pay for a service not performed is extortion. To ensure that club funds are spent on students, the university must remove the security minimum.

Under current policy, GUPD can unilaterally decide that events need more security than student groups requested, Student Activities Commission chair Kylie Navarro (COL ’20) said in a November 2018 article in The Hoya. Unpredictable security costs have left student groups underfunded in the past, Navarro said.

To ensure student organizations can engage students, the university must make costs more affordable and publish its standard for requiring security beyond one officer.

The current system poses a conflict of interest: GUPD can decide how many officers are necessary for an event and simultaneously profit from a monopoly on campus security.

By removing the four-hour minimum, GUPD could credibly demonstrate a commitment to student safety rather than profit.

Realistically, the policy only affects a few organizations; in 2017, only seven SAC-administered student organizations paid for GUPD security. Still, there may have been a number of student organizations that were discouraged from hosting large or contentious events.

The reduction of obstructive security costs could help stimulate campus dialogue.

GUPD currently has full discretion to heighten security for “controversial” speakers and topics, creating a deterrence for students to host events that may spark discord on campus.

GUPD’s lack of public standards on what constitutes a “controversial” event carries the danger of stifling events that marginally spark campus ire and address difficult topics.

Though the Georgetown University Student Association senate passed a resolution in April 2017 expressing concerns about security costs, little concrete action has been taken. GUPD should immediately address student concerns by removing its four-hour minimum.

To demonstrate a genuine prioritization of student safety, Georgetown must reduce arbitrary security requirements. Student funds should benefit students, not pay exorbitant GUPD costs.

The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

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