The Academic Resource Center, responsible for accommodating the additional resources and necessities for students with disabilities, has been unable to meet the needs of disabled students on campus because of certain bureaucratic guidelines.
Most recently, ARC denied aid to a student requiring an interpreter at a Georgetown University Student Association Law School Admission Test class.
“GUSA was co-sponsoring an LSAT prep company to teach six classes here at Georgetown for GU students at a low cost. I reached out to the ARC who let me know that they were not ‘legally responsible’ because it was not related to academics,” Heather Artinian (COL ’15), a hearing impaired student, wrote in an email.
As a result, Artinian contacted GUSA, the co-sponsor of the class, in hopes of being able to receive aid from them.
“I then reached out to GUSA. They unfortunately did not have any accommodations budget because they are a student group,” Artinian wrote. “The issue has probably not come up before for them.”
The lack of consistency in providing for disabled students has created many problems in the past and continues to cause difficulties.
“I have experienced problems like this with the university in general, with all departments. There is always a struggle to book interpreters because there is no central guideline, policy, nor funding by the university, so it’s all about figuring out what goes on, who pays for it, what to do, who to ask, and so on,” Artinian wrote.
ARC’s inaction, coupled with the lack of university-wide regulations for providing aid, has forced organizations such as the Lecture Fund and GUSA to pay for interpreters and aids out of pocket in the past. This year alone, the Lecture Fund spent over $3,000 — the 2014 fiscal year Student Activities Fee appropriation was $65,000 — on American Sign Language translators.
“We had not originally made room in our budget to fund these translators,” Lecture Fund Chair Chris Mulrooney (COL ’14) said.
Translators can cost anywhere from $500 to $700 per event, which usually requires two translators.
GUSA also faced difficulties accommodating the needs of disabled students, as they did not expect their organization to pay for these costs, but as a group representative of students, feel they must accommodate these needs.
“As an organization representing all students, whenever there is an issue with a student group not receiving funding to provide accommodations, it’s our issue,” GUSA President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) said.
According to Mulrooney, ARC maintains they are providing as best they can with their current budget.
“The Academic Resource Center is doing the best they can with the budget that the university has allocated to them. The issue is that they are facing budget cuts that severely limit their ability to provide adequate accommodations,” Mulrooney said.
The ARC did approach student organizations early in the year to notify them about such budget restrictions and the probability that student organizations would have to provide aid themselves.
“The university officials approached us early in the year asking for our assistance because of budget cuts to the Academic Resource Center,” Mulrooney said. The ARC declined comment for this article.
For GUSA, the organization funded interpreters through differing means, not just out of pocket.
“We pursued other means of reaching out to personal connections, applying for ad hoc funds from SAC and looking for money from Corp Philanthropy,” Tezel said.
However, the Lecture Fund paid all costs, although they recognize that such funds will someday run out.
“While our organization has been able to fund every accommodation request this year, we also realize that we cannot act as a funding board in this capacity for a prolonged period of time,” Mulrooney said.
However, simply not providing aid or disregarding requests from disabled students is not an option for the Lecture Fund or GUSA. Artinian praised GUSA’s efforts to meet her needs for the LSAT class.
“Trevor and his administration were absolutely wonderful in how they dealt with it. They reached out to many different organizations. They really, really tried,” Artinian said.
Likewise, the Lecture Fund meets all requests because of their belief in an inclusive environment here at Georgetown.
“We realized the importance of creating an inclusive environment for our events. We’ve also tried our best to make sure that students are aware that we want to help,” Mulrooney said. “For the past few months, we have included a notice at the bottom of our weekly emails that instructs students on what to do if they need any accommodations to attend our events.”
Although there are a few gateways for accessibility for students requiring additional assistance on campus, Artinian believes that the university still has a long way to go, even if student groups like GUSA and the Lecture Fund are taking the initiative.
“The university needs to take a comprehensive approach to the issues of accessibility on campus. If Georgetown knows that there are issues of accessibility to an LSAT prep company providing services to Georgetown students, on their campus, co-sponsored by GUSA, I would have liked to see more of a ‘we care about you and we will help you’ approach,” Artinian said. “As a student at Georgetown I should have equal access to all events that students have access to. I haven’t felt any support from the university.”