The Dear Old Blue and Gray

Union soldiers across the Potomac River from Georgetown University in 1861

Union soldiers across the Potomac River from Georgetown University in 1861

But the yell of all the yells, the yell that wins the day, is the "HOYA, HOYA SAXA!" For the dear old Blue and Gray.



Georgetown is nothing if not historic.  Founded in 1789, the University has grown with our great nation.  Through the best of times, and the worst of times, the school has persevered through it all.  

It was after the Civil War when we adopted the colors of the “dear old Blue and Gray.” Georgetown was torn apart by the War Between the States, with students, professors, friends, and families divided between fighting for the North or South.  Many of those alive at the time feared Georgetown would be forced to close, especially since class registration dropped from 313 to 17 between 1859 and 1861.  However, as we all are well aware, our school fought through the tough times.  University leaders and students after the war chose to remember the past as well as emphasize the hope of unity in the future through the selection of the school colors in 1876.

Georgetown, much like this nation, has a checkered history.  It has produced much good for the world, but has also faced dark times.  In the application of our 21st century moral values it becomes extremely easy to write off whole sections of history and whole groups of people as bad or evil.  However, this is an intellectually lazy approach to our rich past, because only by actively placing events in the appropriate cultural context can we come to truly understand how and why decisions were made, and how we should judge people.

It is for this reason I regret the decision-making process of changing the names of Mulledy and McSherry Halls, for the effort, rather than to deliberate upon the differing perspectives of the past and truly understand it, was to castigate these men as unworthy of historical mention.  Rather than come to understand and appreciate the good or bad they did for this school, we have allowed for one tragic event to define them.  What has occurred over the last week on Georgetown’s campus has been nothing short of a witch hunt.  At no point were the positive aspects of Mulledy and McSherry’s tenure and impacts upon the community discussed.  

I fear the precedents that have been set.  By simply yelling loudly enough and sitting outside of an office for a day and a half a few students can hold the administration hostage to their demands.  I seriously question and fear an administration which so easily caves to this type of pressure.  If the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation was seriously set up for the purpose of evaluating the positives and negatives of renaming the buildings and understanding Georgetown's complicated history in regards to slavery, then why did it immediately release a decision after the start of the protests, and not before?  This does not appear to involve deliberative thought or action, but rather, an administration and a committee which has revealed that it can be run by the whims and emotions of a small group of students.

I also fear for history itself.  For if we choose the easy route and apply our current moral values to the past and condemn all of those who do not nicely fit them, then we will destroy ourselves.  Next we'll be asked to tear down the memorials to Washington, Jefferson, and many more of our founding fathers, since no one is perfect.  

These are dangerous precedents, for where will the emotional tide roll to next?  Will it be our school colors, other buildings, or even John Carroll himself?  None appear safe from the onslaught of this vengeful liberalism.  We will soon be left with nothing but the fragility and emptiness of a forgotten culture if we continue down this path.  

To deny the good which is able to emerge from the past is to lose the essence of who we are and what our country and our school were built upon.  Until each of the buildings on this campus are destroyed, the statue of John Carroll thrown to the ground, and the rest of campus burned to ashes, our school’s history will live on, that cannot be denied.  So instead of eliminating what we fear and pushing aside what we disagree with, we need to actively face and discuss as a community the implications of history.  We must come to appreciate and respect our past, for it is the only way to truly move forward in unity.

In no way do I defend the institution of slavery or the decision made by Mulledy to sell the slaves, who we should remember, belonged to the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, and not Georgetown.  But we do not do history justice by erasing the gray and only remembering the blue, or vice versa.  I fear for the future of Georgetown if we continue to deny our profound history.

These men may not have deserved to have buildings named after them, but they should have at least gotten a fair trial, something so clearly denied on account of President DeGioia's attempt at appeasing emotions, which is likely to only encourage more protests and sit-ins since we all now know that's all it takes now to get the administration to respond. It is one thing to question and learn from history, it is another to cast it aside because we are angered by the customs of the time.

Let us continue to fight for “the dear old Blue and Gray,” and in so doing, let us move forward in unity while always remembering the past.