Georgetown’s Voice Forced Into Smaller Newsroom Due to Hurricane Irene Antics

Current and former staffers of The Voice at Georgetown University are fighting to save the publication’s newsroom.  Georgetown administrators have removed the student newsmagazine from its campus digs, effective today.  Staff are being forced to relocate to a smaller spot following some bizarre behavior during a stormy weekend near the semester’s start.

As Washington Post education reporter Jenna Johnson recounted in a report late last week, “Early on a Sunday morning during Hurricane Irene in late August, public safety officials said they told three students with ties to the Voice to leave the Leavey Center Esplanade because loosened metal shingles on a nearby building could become projectiles and harm them. Instead of leaving, the three students fled to the Voice office on the fourth floor and locked themselves inside. . . . Trapped, the three students allegedly decided to climb into the drop ceiling and crawl into adjacent offices.”

The results: more than $4,000 in damage to the building; criminal charges still pending against the three students (two Voice eds. and a former staffer); and an all-staff eviction from the newsroom for “violat[ing] the student organization office space use agreement.”

Editors have acknowledged and apologized for the Irene trio’s missteps, saying the subsequent punishment is too harsh for such an isolated incident.  They have been joined by dozens of Voice alums, who recently sent an open letter to GU officials asking for clemency.

As the letter starts, “We get it: You can’t have people falling through the ceiling. But punishing people who don’t fall through the ceiling– and the 42-year-old newspaper they work for– isn’t fair.  The three students who caused $4,000 in damage by crawling through the ceiling on the fourth floor of the Leavey Center to evade Department of Public Safety officers certainly deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law and the University Code of Student Conduct. But moving The Georgetown Voice to smaller, inadequate office space penalizes the rest of the paper’s staff, who were not involved in the incident, and jeopardizes the future of a critical university institution.”

In a separate letter published in The Georgetown Hoya, a former Voice staffer confirmed, “[T]he space constraints handed down by the Center for Student Programs will absolutely damage the group without addressing the need for reform. The Voice I remember . . . thrived because it was open for anyone interested enough to walk through the door. In a smaller space, there will barely be enough room for equipment and editors; everyone else will be forced out of the process. Punishing dozens of people because of a few others’ actions doesn’t just lack any sense or reason; it’s downright cruel.”

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