The Georgetown University Native American Student Council plans to begin collecting signatures from students on a petition urging the university to increase support for and representation of indigenous students by March 19.
The petition is set to be submitted to the Office of the President on April 1, the first day of Native American Heritage Month, according to NASC leaders. The NASC, a student affinity group recognized by the university, is committed to discussing events affecting Native American communities and promoting Native American culture. The organization, which was founded in 2012, aims to accrue at least 500 signatures before submitting the petition to administration.
Poor support services, lack of representation on campus and university neglect of indigenous students motivated the creation of the petition, according to Kelsey Lawson (SFS ’19), president of the NASC.
“NASC feels compelled to submit the petition at this time because we have been facing a plethora of issues regarding member recruitment, support services, and a general lack of recognition of indigenous peoples from Georgetown at an institutional level,” Lawson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The petition will also include a list of 12 demands for the university. Among the drafted demands is a call for the university to hire more indigenous faculty members and establish a full-time position of Program Coordinator for Native American Students.
Additionally, the petition seeks academic reforms, calling for “the inclusion of Native American peoples in the core curriculum, with special consideration of the status of tribal nations as sovereign nations,” and “the creation of a Native studies major and/or minor/certificate,” according to a draft of the petition.
To bolster university recruitment efforts, the petition calls on Georgetown to partner with College Horizons, a nonprofit that offers college admissions assistance to Native American students. Peer institutions such as Northwestern University and Duke University are currently partnered with College Horizons.
Poor representation of indigenous communities and limited university efforts to recruit indigenous students are among student concerns, according to NASC treasurer Yasmin Zuch (NHS ’20).
“It has always been a concern to me — the number of indigenous students on campus and their representation in the community. Because I know my freshman year I had no sense of that,” Zuch said. “Personally speaking it was a really hard time adjusting to this culture shock and trying to find a support group on campus where I could relate on the basis of being an indigenous person here.”
Georgetown’s efforts to recruit indigenous students to the university have been inadequate, Zuch said.
“I know that a lot of other people in NASC, during their application processes to other universities, we all found support during the application process because of our indigenous backgrounds. But with Georgetown there wasn’t anything like that; there was no outreach,” Zuch said. “There is a nationwide crisis of native students just not continuing higher education, and I think it’s really problematic that a university would continue to encourage this by not taking action.”
The petition, originally drafted Feb. 22, has already been shared with some students and faculty members for feedback and requires only a few revisions, according to Zuch.
“At this point, it’s just a matter of circulating it and getting the word out,” Zuch said.
NASC plans to launch a large social media campaign and partner with other affinity organizations on campus, including La Casa Latina and Black House, to publicize the petition, according to Zuch and Lawson.
Efforts by indigenous students to establish assistance and forge a community on campus have proven fruitless, according to the petition.
“We feel as though we have exhausted our resources and have had to navigate through an overly complex bureaucratic structure that has largely inhibited our attempts to establish and sustain a community for Native students on campus,” the petition reads.
The petition grew out of other efforts the community made to address its concerns in the past, according to Zuch.
“It seems like we’re continuously being pushed back and consistently diverted to other people to ask questions, and it seemed like nothing was actually being done when we were voicing our concerns,” Zuch said. “That’s what built up our frustrations: consistently asking for help and not seeing any change come out of it.”