NOTE: Following up on this Message to the Community, President DeGioia sent this Message on September 24, 2015 announcing the Working Group on Slavery, Memory & Reconciliation.
Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:
In the coming weeks, our community will come together to inaugurate a new academic year. This is a moment of excitement for new and long-time members of the Georgetown community. I look forward to welcoming all of you to campus.
This year, we have the special honor of opening a new residential community, The Spirit of Georgetown Residential Academy, located in the newly renovated Ryan Hall and Mulledy Hall, alongside Dahlgren Quadrangle, in the heart of Georgetown’s campus.
This place has a rich history—built as a residence for students and later as the Jesuit Residence on campus for four decades. To many in our community, it is also known as “The Former Jesuit Residence” or “FJR.” We will forge new history in this space when it is reopened this semester as a residential living community dedicated to exploring and living out the values that animate our community. This is a moment of celebration—of honoring of our tradition—of welcoming students into a new home on our campus.
This is also an occasion for reflection and deep contemplation about the history of our University, including those moments in our history that are challenging, complex, and that run counter to the values that we seek to uphold. The opening of this new residential community—located in these historic buildings on our campus—calls our attention to a very difficult history, our own institution’s historical ties to slavery.
As many of you know, Mulledy Hall is named for Georgetown President Rev. Thomas F. Mulledy, S.J., who served from 1829-38 and 1845-48. In the months after he stepped down as President, Fr. Mulledy authorized the sale of 272 enslaved people owned by the Society of Jesus in Maryland. Though Fr. Mulledy contributed much to our University, his actions represent a difficult past that is contrary to the values and mission of our University—a mission that we affirm and seek to strengthen in our examination of this history and its impact on our current moment.
This history has been well documented. In recent decades, both the Jesuits of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus and our own faculty have brought the critical light of serious scholarship and prayerful reflection to this history. As we re-open the Mulledy building, we take this opportunity to again look directly at the historical moment of which he was a part and the role that our University played in the institution of slavery.
Over the coming months, we will provide opportunities for our community to learn more about this history, and its legacy, in greater detail. We engage in these activities of reflection and discernment deeply aware of this moment in our nation’s history, a time of great consequence after a year marked by moments of tragedy and violence fueled by racism and prejudice.
This new effort of looking back at our history—which we will officially launch during the academic year—will be shaped by our community—by all of you. In the coming weeks, I will appoint a steering committee comprised of faculty, students, alumni, staff, and administrators to help guide the activities that we will undertake as a community. I invite all of us to consider the role that we may play in contributing to a genuine and honest reflection, a constructive and informed dialogue, and a concrete, intentional effort ahead.
This is what we do best as a university community: we come together to confront difficult events, learn from and with one another, and rely on the collective wisdom and resources of our extraordinary community to determine how we may best move forward toward justice and truth.
I am deeply grateful to each of you, for your ongoing efforts to build and strengthen our community, and I look forward to engaging in this work with you in the time ahead.
John J. DeGioia