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The Georgetown Voice offices are being downsized after three students caused damage to the ceiling of their on-campus space.
Last month, during Hurricane Irene, the students were in an area closed off due to the threat of flying debris. The students ignored “repeated, reasonable requests” from campus police officers to vacate the space, says the university’s Director of Media Relations, Rachel Pugh, then fled the officers by breaking into the ceiling of the Leavey Center.
“In the process of crawling in the ceiling between offices on the fourth floor of the Leavey Center, the students caused significant damage to multiple offices, while continuing to ignore repeated requests to comply with DPS officers,” Pugh wrote in an email. “MPD responded, and all three students are being charged with violations of D.C. law.”
As a consequence, the paper is being evicted (they’re supposed to pack up and move out by Monday, Oct. 3) and moved to what Pugh says is “a smaller office on the same floor.”
Alumni far and wide signed onto a letter (which they shared with media) to the university asking that the students not be kicked out of the offices, arguing that “taking away that space cripples the paper’s ability to do the reporting that makes it an integral part of life on campus.”
Shaun Tandon, editor-in-chief of the Voice during the 1997-98 school year, says his “main concern is for the long-term future of the newspaper. A tiny office inevitably implies a tiny staff, and the biggest fear would be that the newspaper, a vibrant institution for so many years, would wither away and die in a few years’ time due to marginalization.”
The alumni also argue that the decision unfairly punishes staffers who weren’t involved in the incident. “This wasn’t some grand Voice conspiracy that requires a collegiate version of creative destruction,” adds Tandon.
It should be noted the alumni do believe that the Voice should pay for the damage and repairs—-which total about $4,000. But that seems to be beside the point for the university.
Pugh says, “As an organization, the Georgetown Voice violated the student organization office space use agreement and as a result must give up their current location. The sanctions are commensurate with the violations.” She noted that no other student organizations have broken that agreement in recent years.
I certainly understand why alumni are reaching out to support the Voice. As a former college (and high school!) newspaper staffer myself, I know that working until the wee hours until you can’t see straight builds a bond and fondness for one’s office and colleagues that can’t be erased.
But before we get too sentimental, the facts of the case make me skeptical that the punishment is out of line. Three students did something really reckless and their affiliation with the paper actually led to them damaging their own and other organizations’ offices. The Voice isn’t losing its funding. It’s not even going to a different building—it’s being moved down the hall! Not to mention, Pugh says the paper will be able to request new or different space in April, as part of the university’s budget request process.
Sure, the Voice‘s new digs will be smaller, and that sucks for the students who had nothing to do with the incident. But the students involved only had access to the locked office through the paper, which means that the paper as a whole didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.