The petition received 605 signatures from undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni, faculty and staff members, and non-Georgetown affiliated allies, according to NASC’s Facebook page. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), one of two Native American women ever elected to Congress, also signed the petition at a March 29 dialogue addressing the importance of intersectional feminism in Congress.
Five members of NASC and two other students marched from Red Square to the Office of the President on Wednesday morning. The petition was handed to Vice President and Chief of Staff Joseph Ferrara.
During the petition delivery, Ferrara said he would discuss how best to proceed with the administrative bodies the NASC had already contacted, including the Office of the University Registrar, the Office of the Provost and the Office of Admissions.
In light of the petition, the university would like to reaffirm its dedication to issues surrounding Native American visibility and support on campus, according to university spokesperson Matt Hill.
“We take the issues raised seriously and are committed to better understanding the experiences of our Native American students,” Hill wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We look forward to further engaging with these student leaders and working together to ensure Georgetown offers them and the broader community the appropriate resources and support.”
The students spoke to Ferrara about the demands listed in the petition, including hiring more indigenous faculty members and increasing outreach and admission of Native American students by partnering with College Horizons, a nonprofit that offers college admissions assistance to Native American students.
The full support of the Georgetown community is necessary for promoting indigenous visibility on campus, according to NASC President Kelsey Lawson (SFS ’19).
“We feel as though we’ve been able to receive a lot of support through the petition, but we’re still very dependent on people showing solidarity with our cause because our group is so small and we need numbers to carry our movement,” Lawson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The petition describes the lack of support for indigenous students on campus and includes 12 demands regarding how the university can create greater support for its Native American students in terms of outreach, support services and course offerings.
One percent of 3,202 students admitted to the Class of 2023 are Native American, according to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon (CAS ’64, GRD ’69).
Given the small number of indigenous students on campus and the university’s inability to disclose the names of students who identify as Native American because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which protects the privacy of student education records, the group has struggled to expand and make its voice heard to the university, according to Lawson.
“It has been very difficult to navigate through the bureaucratic structure on our own and we feel as though our five member club has been burdened with the responsibility of resolving institutional issues regarding support services for Native students,” Lawson wrote.
The NASC is a university-recognized student affinity group committed to discussing events affecting Native American communities and promoting Native American culture. The group’s petition has been circulating since March 18, with the delivery coming at the beginning of Georgetown’s Native American Heritage Month.
While NASC has taken note of some of the university’s recent efforts to create a more supportive campus environment for its Native American students, the group wants greater transparency and accountability from the university moving forward, according to NASC treasurer Yasmin Zuch (NHS ’20).
“At this point, if the University is to take the issue of Indigenous representation seriously, NASC and our supporters want a detailed plan of action in addressing the points we raise, and more importantly, a way to hold the University accountable for meeting these demands,” Zuch wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Campus Ministry has been working with NASC to dedicate a place on campus for Native American students to burn sacred herbs, as part of efforts to ensure representation of native communities on campus, according to Zuch.
“We have goals and aspirations to obtain a quality education just like anyone else, and for some of us, we want to use this education to help our communities back home,” Zuch wrote. “Not taking action to address the lack of resources or recruitment only contributes to erasing what presence we have on campus already.”