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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Staff editorial: Intimidation, harassment have no place at GW

Where do we go from here? That’s the question facing the University community after a “doxxing truck” displayed the names and faces of students reportedly involved in the Student Coalition for Palestine at GWU last Wednesday.

University officials rightfully condemned the truck, as did GW for Israel — it was a stunt meant to intimidate and threaten students, smearing members of the coalition as “GWU’s Leading Antisemites” instead of engaging with the students or their beliefs in good faith.

Debate and discourse is at the core of the University, and students have long interrogated ideas in the classroom, Kogan Plaza and on the streets of Foggy Bottom — even and especially unorthodox ones. But the last two months have proved that debate and discourse are not without their challenges: inflamed passions, upsetting messages and now serious concerns about student safety are part of campus life.

After targeting students at Harvard and Columbia universities in October, the arrival of the doxxing truck on campus last week underscores how fraught it has become for students to engage in speech and the steps universities, including GW, must take to protect their ability to do so.

As University President Ellen Granberg and Dean of Students Colette Coleman alluded to in their statement on the truck, the University can’t control what outside groups do on public property. But when professional provocateurs seek to intimidate, harass or get a rise out of students — regardless of whether they claim to be informing the public — officials must stick up for vulnerable members of the University community.

Granberg and Coleman said members of their staff “have contacted the students targeted and are providing resources and support,” which, while needed, strikes us as vague and not fully understanding of students’ concerns. Chants of, “You know who keeps us safe? We keep us safe” are cries for help — students are asking the University to support their safety.

GW might take notes from how Harvard responded to attempts to dox and harass its students. Harvard has provided its students with guidance on how to request for false or harassing statements and personal information to be taken offline and created a specific task force to assist students who experience doxxing, harassment and online security issues.

It is difficult to understate just how chilling this targeted intimidation was. Plastering a student’s name and likeness over the internet can push them into silence or send their mental health spiraling. No one should have to hide who they are or what they believe for fear of retaliation, whether that means concealing their identity or refraining from expressing their sincerely held beliefs.

Critics of pro-Palestinian student organizations may note that free speech does not mean freedom from consequences. But would they condone harassment of and threats of physical harm against those students? No matter how contentious the back-and-forth exchange of ideas can become, attempts to silence others have no place on our campus.

The issue isn’t so much that students’ names and faces have been shared well beyond Foggy Bottom but that someone may use that information to hurt them in light of Islamophobic attacks on Muslim and Palestinian students at GW, the fatal stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian American in Illinois, and a shooting in Vermont that injured three Palestinian college students.

Let us be clear: The doxxing truck was not just a “misguided and malicious effort,” as Granberg and Coleman said. Nor did it only endanger students. Offering crude and crass smears in lieu of ideas is antithetical to everything the University stands for.

While there is no easy answer to the question of where we go from here, we’re going to have to face whatever the future brings — more vigils, protests and demonstrations, and more tragic loss of life — together. GW can and should rise to the occasion, hold true to its values and foster an environment where students can safely exchange their ideas and express their beliefs.

At this moment, officials must offer a simple guarantee: Every student, no matter what they believe or how fiercely they critique the University, should know that GW cares about their safety and will do everything in its power to protect them.

The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by Opinions Editor Ethan Benn based on discussions with Contributing Culture Editor Jenna Baer, Editorials Assistant Paige Baratta, Contributing Social Media Director Anaya Bhatt, Contributing Opinions Editor Riley Goodfellow and Social Media Director Ethan Valliath.

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