The District dropped charges Wednesday against nine GW students arrested in the Marvin Center last month for protesting University worker policies.
At an hour-long D.C. Superior Court hearing Wednesday morning, city officials dropped charges against 11 students – including two from Georgetown University – detained in the Marvin Center’s Great Hall March 26.
The demonstrators, several of whom are part of the Progressive Student Union, set up tents in the Marvin Center to urge GW to join the Worker Rights Consortium and raise its employees’ pay and healthcare benefits. After refusing to heed University Police requests to vacate the building, the students were arrested by MPD and jailed for several hours.
In conversations with officials from the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, GW’s lawyers said they would not be “adverse to the criminal charges not going forward,” said Matt Nehmer, assistant director of Media Relations. GW officials would not comment further on the court decision, but emphasized that “the final decision (to drop the charges) rested with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
Senior Allie Robbins, a PSU member who was arrested last month, said the University has still not committed itself to meeting her group’s demands of improving the lives of its hundreds of housekeeping and janitorial employees.
“Of course we’re glad that we don’t have to face a trial … (but) we’re still upset that those demands have not been met,” she said.
By not immediately dropping charges against the students, GW forced them to get court-appointed lawyers and prepare for a possible trial, Robbins said.
Robbins also said the PSU does not have any more acts of civil disobedience planned for this semester, but added that future action is “not out of the question.”
Although she declined to discuss actions her group would take to get their demands met, Robbins said the PSU would “keep dialogue open” with GW.
The demonstrators have also advocated greater benefits for GW’s adjunct professors, who are not unionized and lack tenure. Adjunct professors recently postponed plans to unionize until next semester.
About 50 adjunct and full-time faculty took out a full-page ad in The Hatchet Monday calling on GW to drop charges against the students.
“It’s great news, that that’s the case,” said Josef Mahoney, an adjunct English professor, upon being told about Wednesday’s dismissal. “It’s a shame that we got to that point to begin with.”
Even though the students might have violated the GW Code of Student Conduct by holding a demonstration in a campus building, Mahoney said the “more serious problem (and) a more egregious error” is the University’s failure to adequately compensate its workers.
The Student Association Senate also urged GW to drop proceedings against the demonstrators in a resolution that was vetoed by President Kris Hart earlier this month.
Hart said he didn’t support the resolution because the students violated GW policy. But he also said the University should make its policy clearer.