As an academic institution, our community benefits from opportunities to learn from a wide range of academic disciplines. The Georgetown University Student Association is currently circulating a petition calling for the university to launch a disability studies minor. The minor would consist of foundational courses, electives and a capstone, similar to currently existing curricula The program would also build upon the existing disability studies cluster, which has seen over 200 participating students in seven classes this semester.
One in five Americans identifies as having a disability according to 2012 census data. Given such a sizable population, Georgetown would only stand to benefit from a disability study minor, and students across our community should sign this petition to support the program. A disability studies minor would cater to the diverse interests of students while contributing to the breadth of interdisciplinary offerings Georgetown provides.
This minor would add to the variety of current identity studies programs such as African American studies, women’s and gender studies and Latin American studies, which are already well-established and successful. People with disabilities belong to a group and set of experiences worth acknowledging also. Women’s and gender studies serves as an excellent model for such a minor to follow; it offers a major and a minor, while still maintaining a great deal of intersectionality. Students from all schools, be it the School of Nursing and Health Studies or the College, can benefit from a program that expands into fields of history, science, English and policy. A disability studies minor could follow a similar format and development.
In addition, there are currently 38 schools in the country that have disability studies programs. The seven classes offered at Georgetown this semester reach the threshold for being considered a minor, and there is already enough academic funding to support the transition, according to GUSA Accessibility Policy Chair Danielle Zamalin (NHS ’18). The petition would serve as a final step in the process to formalize disability studies as a minor. Considering the scholarly importance of the field and its interest to students, Georgetown holds an opportunity to add its name to the growing list of schools that have already taken this step.
The process of creating a minor requires a formal proposal to be made to the College Dean’s Office, with members of the College Academic Council giving their final vote of approval or disapproval. Yet given that the cluster already has enough courses, enough funding and enough student support, the barriers to this initiative are easily surmountable and should pose little problem in the near future.
A disability studies minor would allow students to be exposed to the issues and complexities of approximately 55 million people in the United States. With the support of students and the existing infrastructure available, there is no reason for the program to be delayed any longer, and all students should welcome the inclusion of this program. In a community that seeks to educate and craft a culture of learning, we can only stand to benefit from a widening of our academic curriculum, and a disability study minor would be a welcome addition.