Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown To Hire Associate Director for Disability Cultural Initiative


Georgetown University will hire an associate director for the Disability Cultural Initiative to increase engagement in disability culture and improve inclusion on campus. 

The Disability Cultural Initiative aims to promote social justice and support disabled community members. The new associate director will help guide the initiative and oversee efforts to create a Disability Cultural Center (DCC), which would organize programming, including educational, social and support initiatives for disabled students and allies who want to get involved. The push for a DCC on campus began in 2015 and was reignited last year. 

A DCC would offer various programs, including social events, inclusion trainings, guest panels, mentoring and office hours in an effort to support the disabled community at Georgetown.

The establishment of a DCC would fundamentally improve the Georgetown experience for current and future disabled students, according to Gwyneth Murphy (SFS ’23), Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Accessibility Coordinator.  

Jessica Lin/The Hoya | Georgetown University began a search for an associate director of the Disability Cultural Initiative with the goal of establishing a fully fledged Disability Cultural Center.

“I’ve been dreaming of a DCC since I was a freshman and encountered my first instance of discrimination as a disabled person,” Murphy said in an interview with The Hoya. “I couldn’t get it out of my mind, because there are so many ways my own life would improve. I would feel accepted and included and heard in ways that I really haven’t felt my whole time at Georgetown.”

The GUSA Accessibility Policy Team, with support from student organizations including the Georgetown Disability Alliance, began formally advocating for a DCC last winter. Since Dec. 2020 the petition for the center has garnered over one thousand signatures, including from alumni, faculty, student organizations and other universities. 

Murphy is optimistic that filling the position would advance progress towards creating a disability cultural center.   

“We want to make sure that the position is filled with someone who’s highly qualified and reflects the diverse student body,” Murphy said. “That is our next main goal, and I think genuinely once the position is filled with someone who can dedicate their time to projects, I imagine that it’s really just going to require finding the right space and making sure that the space is accessible.”

The university’s search for a new associate director is a step in the right direction but is just the beginning of advocacy efforts, according to GUSA Accessibility Policy Team Chair Nesreen Shahrour (NHS ’23).

“I think there’s a lot of ways we can improve accessibility. We should continue moving forward and I’m thankful for this step forward,” Shahrour said in an interview with The Hoya. “This is simply a search for someone. We haven’t started the hiring process, and there are a lot of steps moving forward that we need to work on. But I think I’m very appreciative of this step by the university.”

The Disability Cultural Initiative, along with future plans for a DCC, are examples of Georgetown’s commitment to accessibility and equity, according to a university spokesperson. 

“The goal of the Disability Cultural Initiative is to build the foundation for the eventual establishment of a fully-fledged disability cultural center that will coordinate and integrate the educational, academic, social, and support programming for disabled students, faculty, staff, allies, and people interested in learning more about disability,” the university spokesperson wrote to The Hoya.

The GUSA Accessibility Policy Team received guidance from Georgetown English professor Libbie Rifkin, who was the founding director of the Program in Disability Studies from 2017 to 2020. Rifkin is also a special advisor to the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for disability. 

The university’s decision to search for a new associate director marks a fundamental shift in the university’s approach to campus culture, according to Professor Rifkin. 

“This initiative moves beyond the deficit model of disability and beyond strict compliance to celebrate disability as an identity, a dimension of diversity and a cultural community,” Rifkin wrote to The Hoya. “I think the effects of this hire will be felt in all areas of University life, in, and importantly, well beyond the classroom: from admissions to residence life to club culture to employment to technology to the broader culture of belonging.”

According to Murphy, when a DCC becomes a reality, it will be a turning point for disabled members of the Georgetown community.

“I think a DCC is finally going to rightfully put the spotlight on this community and allow them a safe space to be themselves and give them an opportunity to finally have a host for their wants and needs,” Murphy said.

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