Georgetown University students and administrators created a foundation to support disability-related initiatives on campus following a donation of $ 50,000 from graduate Tiffany Yu (MSB ’10).
On June 15th, Georgetown University launched the Disability Empowerment Endowed Fund. The foundation’s goal is to fund initiatives that support disabled students in the Georgetown community, including disabled-friendly courses, guest speaker events, and research projects for community members.
GU Hoyas | The Disability Empowerment Endowed Fund will donate approximately $ 5,000 per year to permanent disability-oriented initiatives.
According to the university, the foundation needs $ 100,000 before it can officially launch, which means the fund relies on community donations for the remaining $ 50,000. Once the foundation reaches $ 100,000, the university will withdraw approximately $ 5,000 per year on a permanent basis to fund disability-oriented programs.
According to Dominic DeRamo (COL ’23), a member of the Georgetown University Student Association’s Accessibility Policy Team and the GUSA Accessibility Coordination Team, the foundation came about as a result of collaboration between students, alumni and Georgetown administrators.
An entrepreneur and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, Yu hopes the Georgetown community will reaffirm its commitment to combating ableism by donating to the fund.
“I want to know now that both alumni and students are committed to having a permanent place in the campus ecosystem that continues to invest in disability initiatives,” Yu said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
Nesreen Shahrour (NHS ’23), Chair of the GUSA Accessibility Policy Team, recalled being shocked but optimistic after Yu offered to make an initial donation to the foundation.
“It just left me with a feeling of hope. I hope we can make change here on campus and improve the culture for students with disabilities here and to see that is really monumental to me, ”Shahrour said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
According to Murphy, students have been working with administrators for months to create a foundation for disability programs; After asking alumni for advice and support, Yu got in touch with the starting donation.
According to GUSA Accessibility Coordinator and member of the Accessibility Policy Team, Gwyneth Murphy (SFS ’23), the university supported the foundation.
“I think this is a big step forward and the conversations we’ve had with administrators have been all positive,” Murphy said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
Georgetown is striving to create a more accessible campus, according to a university spokesperson.
“In addition to our general efforts to improve campus accessibility, we address special student needs as they arise and invite students with disabilities to contribute to these topics,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya .
According to Yu, this foundation is essential to reduce ableism on campus and strengthen the identity of people with disabilities.
“One question I get a lot is ‘Why should I care?’ The very fact that we even ask this question is already dehumanizing for a disabled person because we assume that we have no intrinsic worth and worth to take a place on this campus, ”said Yu.
Murphy says current activists build on years of work by previous student disability activists. Faculty member Lydia XZ Brown (COL ’15) campaigned for disability rights while studying in Georgetown, calling on the university to establish a cultural center for the disabled to serve as a community resource for disabled people in the Washington, DC area.
A cultural center for the disabled would provide a much-needed space for disabled parishioners, Brown said.
“I would have loved to have had this room, and no doubt a lot of other people I knew would have wanted this room too,” Brown said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
Now Murphy, Shahrour, and DeRamo are working to make Brown’s proposal a reality. The trio started an Instagram account in December 2020 to raise awareness of the rights of the disabled on campus and to support a cultural center for the disabled. In addition, the GUSA Accessibility Policy Team published a proposal to support the cultural center for people with disabilities and outlined the activists’ specific vision for the center.
Although the foundation will not specifically fund the establishment of a cultural center for the disabled at this time, Yu hopes it will encourage the campus community to support disability-oriented activities in the future.
“There are two different things that ultimately contribute to the same dream of integrating disabilities on campus,” said Yu.
While the cultural center for the disabled is still in the early stages of planning, Murphy hopes student activism will encourage Georgetown to contribute funds from the foundation to set up the center in the future.
As of July 12, the foundation had received $ 10,941 in community donations, according to Yu.
The decision to set up the foundation is an important step, according to Murphy, in rejecting and dismantling ableist attitudes in the Georgetown community.
“I don’t think there has been a single act in the history of Georgetown University that shows more potential engagement with the disabled community,” Murphy said.
CORRECTION: This article was updated on July 14th to accurately reflect the relationship between the Foundation and funding for the Cultural Center for People with Disabilities.