Meet FIRE Summer Intern Yean Do from Georgetown University

By on June 12, 2012

Yean Do is a rising senior at Georgetown University, where she majors in psychology. At Georgetown, she conducts psychology research on the nature of human empathy and psychopathy in the Laboratory on Social and Affective Neuroscience. She is also a campus tour guide and the music director of her co-ed a cappella group, Georgetown Superfood

On why she decided to spend the summer with FIRE, Yean writes:

My interest in FIRE primarily stems from my experience attending Georgetown University, the oldest Jesuit university in the country. As a Catholic institution of higher learning, Georgetown embodies certain core religious values that influence the lives of students and faculty every day such as religious tolerance, social justice, and a commitment to serving others. If you ask any Hoya, he or she will agree that these are fundamental components of our collective identity, and they are values that I too cherish. But when a university promises to uphold individual rights for students and faculty, administrators cannot ignore these promises when student speech contradicts these religious values. At Georgetown, it seems we have forgotten this key point. The code of student conduct and student group policies (both written by administrators) acknowledge open discourse and the free expression of ideas as being key to the life of a university. But at the same time, these rules limit what Georgetown students can say to speech that respects the university’s Catholic tradition. In other words, students are promised the right of free speech, but the university ultimately reserves the ability to curtail that right. Thus, an obvious contradiction lies at the heart of Georgetown’s speech and expression policy, and this is something that requires immediate attention. Having guaranteed certain rights, administrators at Georgetown simply need to do more to live up to their promises.

As a student, the idea of defending free speech resonates with me. Throughout my childhood, my parents always stressed the importance of education. My dad often reminded me (and still does to this day) that my education was my one key to success, and that taking advantage of it was my greatest responsibility. As a result, I grew up appreciating the power of knowledge in shaping who I am and what I am capable of. Today, I am the product of a million different intersecting ideas that have, in one way or another, colored my personality, my life goals, and my worldview. I don’t doubt the essential role that free speech has played in this course of events. In this way, FIRE’s mission speaks directly to me, as it should to all of us. At FIRE, I hope to gain the tools necessary to address Georgetown’s misguided speech policies. At the very least, students and administrators need to engage in an honest and in-depth dialogue, and my main goal is to facilitate that conversation. In fostering this kind of communication, I hope to raise greater awareness on campus about our individual rights and what we, as individuals and as a community, can do to defend them. 

Welcome, Yean! To support FIRE’s Internship Program, visit thefire.org/interns.