Yesterday I reported on the case of Jarrett Roby, the young incoming freshman at Georgetown University who was suspended from his summer scholarship program because of his refusal to attend an “LGBTQ Sensitivity Training” on religious grounds. The workshop was mandatory for scholarship students from the Community Scholars program at the center for MultiCultural Equity and Access and was not revealed in the original contracts/course materials that went out to students before they arrived on campus. It was only after they arrived that they were notified they would be required to take the workshop. Roby says a number of students felt uncomfortable about the workshop. “It wasn’t so much that everyone was conservative, but a lot of us just weren’t comfortable, but they were like ‘well, it’s mandatory’ so most of us just went along with it because nobody wanted to get written up”. When young Mr. Roby objected to the training session he was told he was close-minded and if he didn’t attend there would be disciplinary action. “I went to one of the program RA’s directly because I wanted to have some type of order, as opposed to just skipping it and sleeping. I said I have no problems with anyone. I have no animosity toward anyone. I’m already tolerant. I don’t think I need to go to a seminar when I could spend that time studying [the course material]. She told me I can expect a write-up. Later that night the RA’s tried to diffuse the conversation we were having as students about the issue. The RA’s were focusing their attention on me . The next morning the administrators came to me and said the RAs felt physically threatened by me and I thought that was strange because I’ve never intimidated anyone or raised my hand. I’m not that type of person, so where did they get this information? The program leaders said,’This may not be fair, but we’re not going to take the time to do an in depth investigation. They (RAs) felt physically threatened so we take this seriously.’ I felt this was not about physical violence but about my views as a conservative. I’m 100% certain that my peers in the program would vouch for me being a peaceful guy. I don’t get into conflict, I’m outspoken, I’m charismatic. I had to wonder if I was 5’6″, 130lbs and a different race would they feel physically threatened? But of course I’m African-American, 6′ and 240lbs. They called the Georgetown police and they were in my room the entire time I was packing, which I felt was complete nonsense. Then they escorted me to the car taking me to the airport. The RAs couldn’t even provide a legitimate reason why they felt threatened by me. I really believe it was all about me not going to the seminar.”
Could Roby’s race and stature play a big part in what made the RA’s feel threatened? Perhaps the “tolerance” police at Georgetown need a sensitivity training course in race themselves. And religion for that matter. At the CATHOLIC university!
Witnesses corroborate Roby’s story and say at no time was he threatening or physical in any way, shape or manner. One witness (who prefers to remain anonymous) stated they wanted to stand with Roby and others objecting but in the end they were simply too frightened of losing their scholarship money and went along with the class, which had absolutely no academic purpose. “At no point was there any violence or aggression. Jarret is naturally a big guy and has a very deep voice. He was just trying to defend his point, but I guess his size and voice is what the RAs saw as aggressions. They kept making comments about him, that he was close minded and ignorant. A lot of derogatory comments. They were trying to get rid of him from the beginning. Some students were in fear of their scholarships if they stood up for Jarret so they just didn’t say anything. Jarret’s not a bad kid. He’s a great kid. He’s had many recognitions. The Governor of IL recognized him!”
— Governor Pat Quinn (@GovernorQuinn) March 30, 2012
And here is Mr.Roby at the Urban Prep Academy ceremony announcing the Hoya class of 2016. He’s at about the 6:00 mark.
“Since liberals are so great at detecting “coded language” here’s a translation we all can agree with: He’s black, somewhat large in stature, black, a Christian, black, a Conservative…black…a teenager…black…so we need to call the police and have him thrown out…Did I mention that Jarrett Roby is black? These “tolerant” people who threw this teenager out with police escorts are the type of people who rail against alleged conservative intolerance but refused to even hear Jarrett out completely.”
I’m not sure if we mentioned yet that Jarrett is black. And also, black.
Given that the scholarship program is run by the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, it is not surprising that they offer this type of workshop. What is surprising is that program leaders told the students that it was to help increase “tolerance” and encourage students who may be closeted or afraid of exposing their sexuality. What about the students who have other religious or political views on homosexuality and it’s practices? What about students who express conservative views and values? Students are now saying they are afraid to express their views in the program. They are afraid to speak freely. So the “tolerance” program that was designed to make students less afraid has actually created more fear, not less.
Despite the dust-up Roby says he is looking forward to attending GU in the fall. He has lost his scholarship through the Community Scholars Program but has been able to secure other scholarships to help with the cost. Roby says he still respects GU as a great institution and doesn’t want to punish anyone; he only wants to be treated fairly.
Officials at Georgetown University and the Community Scholarship Program could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Roby will join the Dark Side with Kira Davis tonight to discuss his case.
UPDATE: Stacy Kerr from the Georgetown Communications office sent this statement to me earlier today regarding the Roby case.
All new students at Georgetown University participate in programming and orientations to prepare them to be successful in a university environment that is inclusive and respectful of diverse groups of people. During orientation all news students participate in Pluralism in Action, a session exploring issues related to diversity and tolerance.
Some specific programs, like the Georgetown Community Scholars Summer Program, give us the benefit of time over the summer to address issues in more depth. In addition to diversity, some examples of this in-depth programming include sessions on financial literacy and healthy relationships.
In the instance that students make administrators aware of religious or personal objections to any trainings or programs, the university works to provide alternative approaches to fulfill these requirements in concert with students’ beliefs.