Dean Hellman On Supporting Our Community

Dear SFS Community,

On Monday, the Georgetown University Master of Science in Foreign Service Cyber Project conducted its seventh annual International Conference on Cyber Engagement. The professional conference included more than a dozen sessions featuring nearly 50 speakers and brought together policymakers, academics and key industry stakeholders from across the globe.

Many members of our community have expressed concern over a luncheon panel discussion entitled “News, Alternative Facts, and Propaganda: The Role of Cyber in Influence Operations,” which included Sebastian Gorka, a cybersecurity advisor at the White House. Mr. Gorka was invited to participate as he works with the special operations community on irregular warfare, including the distortion of media.

Members of our community have expressed deep concerns over Mr. Gorka’s published statements, especially about the nature of Islam, and his reported affiliations with chauvinist groups. They were troubled that this invitation in some way suggested an endorsement of his views. I want to reiterate that the invitation of any speaker to the campus does not reflect an endorsement by Georgetown or the School of Foreign Service of their views.

At the same time, I believe that we have an obligation as a school dedicated to global engagement and service at the center of policymaking in Washington DC to foster dialogue around the very core values of our school, especially with those responsible for making and implementing policies. These will not always be easy or pleasant dialogues, but they are necessary in the hopes of fostering greater understanding and progress. Our ground rules for these dialogues are simple: we insist that all of our invited speakers take questions from students, we call for civility on all sides, and we allow for peaceful, non-disruptive demonstrations. As an academic community, we believe that the best response to potentially controversial speech or speakers is more speech, not censorship.

Yesterday, our students demonstrated such behavior by respectfully listening to the speakers and asking challenging questions in a spirit of debate, all while expressing their concerns through peaceful and non-disruptive demonstration. Though our community demonstrated the values our school stands for, I am deeply troubled to hear that some students have been targeted on social media — by individuals outside of the Georgetown community — after they exercised their free speech rights. As a university — and particularly as a school founded on the principles of understanding and inclusion — we strongly condemn the harassment of members of our community and any narratives that incite or encourage such discrimination. We are committed to ensuring that our students feel safe on this campus. I encourage any members of our community who have concerns to make use of the resources listed below.

As a community, we condemn all acts of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and hate speech, which are so disturbingly on the rise recently. As President DeGioia recently wrote in a message to our community,  we are “a place where people of diverse faith traditions, different nationalities and ethnicities, backgrounds and identities come together to be immersed in academic life—to learn, to be in dialogue, to serve, and to worship and pray—together.” I am always open to dialogue with students about how best to ensure that our community fosters these values.

As the semester comes to a close, I thank you for your many contributions to our community and look forward to continued dialogue.

All best,

Joel Hellman


I would like to direct all members of our SFS community to the following resources:

  • For campus security, Georgetown University Police Department can provide enhanced security to anyone who requests it (202-687-4343). Safety planning and security advice is also available by contacting Deputy Chief of Police Joseph Smith (Joseph.Smith@georgetown.edu).

  • For social media, the Office of Communications (gucomm@georgetown.edu) has excellent advice on managing social media accounts to ensure privacy.

  • To schedule an appointment with CAPS (Counseling and Psychiatric Services), students may call (202) 687-6985 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., MondayFriday. In the event of an urgent need after hours, call (202) 444-7243 and ask for the CAPS clinician on call.

  • The Office of Campus Ministry is available to all students during business hours by calling (202) 687-5259. In addition, chaplains in residence may be reached after hours by calling (202) 677-0361.

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Joel S. Hellman

Dean

Walsh School of Foreign Service

Georgetown University

@joelhellman_sfs | @georgetownsfs | fb/georgetownsfs