This week, Georgetown University is hosting the National Jesuit Leadership Conference, an annual, five-day gathering for students attending Jesuit universities. Despite Georgetown’s declared adherence to academic freedom and Jesuit values such as contemplatives in action and community in diversity, the University decided to rescind a Loyola Chicago student’s invitation to speak at the conference, despite her already having been approved to deliver her project. The dual purpose presentation, titled “Founding a Social Justice Movement: Students for Reproductive Justice,” served to describe the organization she co-founded, Students for Reproductive Justice (SRJ) and inform others on ways to build an organization from the ground up. As she specified to the conference planning committee, this presentation would be applicable to whatever cause a student may be interested in.
Officially, the student was informed that her invitation was rescinded due to SRJ’s unrecognized status as a University group. However, University affiliation was never an explicit requirement for presenting at the conference, especially since she was selected to appear as a representative of her university and on behalf of another on-campus engagement. Upon further inquiry, it was revealed that Georgetown administration’s view that SRJ’s mission did not align with University values influenced the decision to withdraw the student’s invitation.
In a time of intense national debate about the state of academic freedom and free speech on college campuses, it is disheartening and shameful to learn of the continued, active role Georgetown University’s administration has chosen to play in limiting speech and diluting the content of academic spaces, especially for a conference intended to bring together strong, diverse voices from Jesuit universities nationwide.
H*yas for Choice stands in solidarity with Students for Reproductive Justice at Loyola University Chicago. Now possibly more than ever, the search for common humanity across difference is an endeavor that ought to be promoted and cherished. The administration’s decision to inhibit this search is harmful to the tenets of academic freedom, free speech, and the very Jesuit values that should be celebrated and upheld at the National Jesuit Leadership Conference.