On February 22, 1991, the Office of Student Affairs of Georgetown University sent to all students, alumni, staff and faculty the following letter:
To the Members of the Georgetown University Community
Ladies and Gentlemen:
In November 1990, I received a recommendation from the Student Activities Commission (SAC) that a student organization, "GU Choice," met the University's eligibility criteria for access to University benefits. After three months of discussion and careful consideration, I have accepted this recommendation and approved access to benefits for GU Choice. I wish to share with you my reasons for this decision and the understanding the University has reached with GU Choice concerning their activities.
It may be helpful for me first to describe the context in which student clubs and organizations operate at Georgetown. Georgetown does not provide "official recognition," endorsement or sponsorship for any student club or organization.
For many years the University did provide "official recognition" for student clubs and organizations. But in July 1990, after a faculty, student and staff committee completed two years of work revising our guidelines, the University implemented a new set of criteria which replaced our criteria for official recognition. The new criteria, "Eligibility for Benefits," are applied to all student groups requesting access to University benefits.
In order to be eligible for benefits, a club must meet several criteria. These criteria require that a club be open to all Georgetown undergraduates, have at least twelve undergraduate student members, not duplicate the activities of another club, have a sound constitution and be in compliance with all University policies. These new criteria are applied to permit students to organize freely in order to pursue interests and objectives of their own choosing, without University sanction of the merits of those activities or objectives. It was the decision of the SAC that GU Choice meets the eligibility criteria.
At the present time there are 100 student clubs that have access to University benefits. There are 18 benefits to which these clubs may have access. These include such items as a mailbox in the Office of Student Programs, the ability to apply for the use of our vans, access to University facilities, office space and funding.
The SAC recognized that its recommendation entailed special questions for Georgetown University. They therefore made their recommendation under the condition that the members of GU Choice work with me to determine the appropriate framework in which they can conduct their activities in this community.
The purpose of the organization is to provide a forum for the free exchange of ideas on matters related to abortion and the "Choice" debate. The purpose of the organization is stated in its constitution:
GU Choice was formed with the intent of increasing awareness and discussion of the arguments central to the abortion debate. As such, the primary goal of the organization is to offer all students opportunities to learn about the issues involved in the "Choice" debate. This debate includes at least three significant elements: (1) a woman's moral and legal right to the determination of the course of a pregnancy; (2) the moral and legal status and rights of the fetus; (3) the role of the government, both legislative and judicial, state and federal, in determining the priority of the rights at stake in this conflict. GU Choice will examine the political, social and moral implications of this controversy.
Such a purpose is consistent with our guidelines on Speech and Expression on the Main Campus of Georgetown University. In these guidelines we committed ourselves to standards of speech and expression that foster the maximum exchange of ideas and opinions. This freedom includes the right to express points of view on the widest range of public and private concerns and to engage in the robust expression of ideas.
The students of GU Choice recognize that they will be conducting their activities in an institutional context in which the matter of abortion is settled. We do not perform abortions at Georgetown University Hospital or at the Student Health Center. We do not provide abortion counseling or make referrals to abortion clinics through our programs in Student Health, Counseling and Psychiatry or Health Education.
Thus, respecting the nature of this institution, I defined clearly the scope of the activities in which it would be inappropriate and unacceptable for GU Choice to be involved. Specifically, there can be no cooperation of the club in the advocacy and practice of abortion. Moreover, GU Choice cannot engage in activities which would be contrary to accepted norms of conduct at the University. These include activities such as providing abortion services, funding abortions, establishing an emergency fund for abortions, providing referrals or escorts to abortion clinics, and publishing brochures or pamphlets recommending abortion clinics. The determination of "cooperation" and the decision to provide access to University benefits will be reviewed on an annual basis by the Dean of Student Affairs.
It is my intention with this decision to balance Georgetown's commitment to the free exchange of ideas with a 200-year commitment to the moral tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. I am confident that the student leadership of GU Choice clearly understands the scope of permissible activities and will act in a manner that is respectful of the University's moral tradition.
John J. DeGoia
Dean of Student Affairs