Gwyneth Murphy

New Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Young Defender Gwyneth Murphy was overwhelmed by the massive crowds of students that flooded Georgetown’s main campus on a Saturday morning when the University witnessed its first campus-wide Human Rights Summit. The crowd gathered for one reason: to learn more about human rights. And even though Georgetown is renowned for its School of Foreign Service, the convening of students for the purpose of human rights literacy was a rare sight.

Gwyneth watched this day finally come to fruition as one of the student leaders in Hoyas for Human Rights. The group’s inaugural ‘Human Rights Summit’ began on March 31st, 2023 and brought together 28 campus organizations to bring awareness to the disparate issues and form common connections that each issue shares.

“To be clear, there’s not a lack of human rights activity on campus,” Gwyneth said. “But advancing awareness and literacy in human rights was something that wasn’t there when I arrived on campus.”

The summit offered a variety of events such as a training held by the American Civil Liberties Union, a panel discussion on environmental racism, and other educational activities on issues ranging from disability rights to slavery reparations at the school. Also taking place on Transgender Visibility Day, Hoyas for Human Rights properly dedicated space to recognize and educate students on the increasing threats and struggles the trans and nonbinary community faces today.

Gwyneth said that while voices already existed to highlight issues such as LGBTQ+ rights, indigenous rights, and immigrants rights, they existed in silos. Bringing these groups together on a single day dedicated to human rights, the event properly contextualized each individual struggle as one to improve the human condition. She further emphasized how having proper context is important to spreading awareness and combatting various human rights violations:

“There are many times we tip-toe around the proper usage of how we define human rights abuses with labels such as ‘problematic’ or ‘wrong’, when we should be using the appropriate strength of terms like ‘genocide’,” Gwyneth said. “By calling something as it exactly is, we can focus our efforts and attention on combating these violations head-on.”

Furthermore, fostering conversations not solely as academic discussions but as spaces to process the personal impact of events, such as the fall of Roe v. Wade, can be difficult at a university with a religious affiliation. She emphasizes that keeping these spaces open are “especially important for religious and racial minorities” at Georgetown, founded as and remains a Jesuit institution.

“Often these different movements, whether it’s reparations at Georgetown, trans visibility, or workers rights, are not seen as one collective voice towards justice, but our message is to underscore that they, in fact, are.”

This collective voice towards justice was able to happen on Georgetown’s campus because of the ability for students to make direct connections across a variety of human rights issues on a single day. Gwyneth is proud to see this mission as not just a one-off event, but a continuing event and broader conversation that will exist for years to come.

Gwyneth is already embedding these values of strengthening human rights in her professional goals by joining the civil service this summer. In reflecting on her work on campus and dedication to human rights in her career, she acknowledges that “change can be slow and incremental, but recognizing and accepting the gradual nature of progress is extremely important for us to move forward on the path toward justice.” Gwyneth’s passion for progress through education is what exemplifies her as a Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Young Defender.

Profile written by Graeme Strickland.