Reflections on Community
October 19, 2023
Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:
Our community has come together in recent days to reflect on the events in Israel and Gaza.
This continues to be a difficult time for our global community. In the wake of the terrorist attack in Israel, we are watching in anguish as a humanitarian crisis in Gaza unfolds. Palestinian families in Gaza face airstrikes, lack access to basic necessities, and fear the possibility of an invasion with no opportunity to escape. Israeli families continue to wait for news of those who may still be missing or the release of family members and loved ones taken hostage. There is devastation felt across Israel, the West Bank, and in Gaza.
This moment demands that we come together on behalf of human dignity. No matter our differences—each one of us, all of us, are imbued with inherent dignity by virtue of our very humanity. This guides how we act towards one another as members of this community, and it is how the values of our community invite us to reflect on this moment.
Innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives have been taken by this conflict. We grieve each life lost.
Is it possible for us to imagine another way?
Is it possible for us—here—to respond differently: by seeking greater understanding, greater care of one another, greater connection to one another—to center human dignity in this moment of crisis and in our imagining of the future.
This is our imperative: to realize a world in which the inherent human dignity of every member of the Palestinian community, the inherent human dignity of every member of the Israeli community, is recognized and protected.
In an earlier message, in responding to the unconscionable terror committed by Hamas on October 7, I emphasized the extraordinary resources available to us here in our Georgetown University community. We are home to four leading academic centers: the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies; the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding; the Center for Jewish Civilization; and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. The faculty who animate these centers are among the best in the world and are capable of guiding deep conversation regarding the enduring challenges blocking peace.
Our centers have modeled an exemplary commitment to dialogue and to academic engagement—hosting a number of events in recent days, including an event held last night, organized by our student-led Georgetown Bipartisan Coalition with the Center for Jewish Civilization, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, and our School of Foreign Service. Other gatherings have focused on healing and spiritual reflection, providing space for our Jewish students and for our Muslim students to be together, and for our entire community to offer prayers during a Day of Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land, held in Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart this past Tuesday.
We are at our best when we are engaged in the work of the university: fostering civic discourse; sharing in the free exchange of ideas; listening to new and different perspectives; exploring new knowledge.
In recent days, as I have met with many members of our community, three concerns very specific to our immediate Georgetown community have been emphasized in our conversations: first, personal safety and security; second, ensuring protection of speech and expression; third, addressing antisemitism and Islamophobia.
- First, personal safety and security. This includes steps taken immediately following the attacks to support our students studying abroad in Israel and steps taken on our campuses—providing additional security to different spaces and events on our campuses. If, at any time, you feel unsafe on or near our campuses, our LiveSafe mobile app allows you to report concerning activity, request a SafeRide, reach the Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD), or access resources related to mental health or bias reporting. Help is available 24/7. On the Main and Medical Campuses, GUPD can be reached at (202) 687-4343 and the Georgetown Law Campus Police Department can be reached at (202) 662-9325.
- Second, protecting speech and expression. Our university-wide speech and expression policy encourages and protects the free expression of ideas within the broadest possible latitude. We do not tolerate speech that defames a specific individual, constitutes a genuine threat, or violates our Harassment Policy, and we maintain other limited exceptions related to time, place, and manner. Our Speech and Expression Committee helps to uphold the guidelines on speech and expression that are included in our undergraduate student handbook and can help review and advise on concerns.
- Third, addressing antisemitism and Islamophobia. These acts of hate and hostility have been on the rise nationally in recent years. We do not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, hatred or discrimination of any kind in our community. I encourage you to use our bias reporting system to report any experiences of bias or hate. Additional resources to support mental health and well-being can be found at Every Hoya Cares.
This is a very painful moment for our global community. Here, at Georgetown, members of our community are experiencing grief for the loss of loved ones and pain and sadness over the violence against innocent lives. Let us accompany one another through this moment, with respect, civility, and care. Let us find solace in one another. Let us see beyond our differences into the humanity of each of us. Our community has proven itself capable of rising to the most difficult challenges and we must draw upon that strength, and one another, in this moment.
John J. DeGioia