Students tweeted about their experiences of being disabled at Georgetown on Monday using the hashtag #BDGU. The protest — inspired by the December #BLGU, #BAGU and #BBGU Twitter protests by minority groups — lamented that Georgetown is far from being disability friendly.
Organized by Lydia Brown (COL ’15) along with Natalia Mabel Rivera-Morales (SFS ’13), Chris DeLorenzo (GRD ’17) and Carly Rosenfield (COL ’14), the online protest exposed viewers to the discrimination students with disabilities face from the administration and their peers, as well as positive experiences of support.
According to Brown, the Twitter event was intended to increase awareness and acceptance of disabled students on campus.
“I’m hoping that joining this conversation will emphasize the need for institutional commitment to disability and diversity while simultaneously bringing to light the experiences of disabled students who, before now, have very, very rarely been able to share what it means to be disabled at Georgetown,” Brown said.
#BDGU additionally focused on attracting greater university recognition of disability.
“It’s just particularly telling to me, because the university talks a lot about diversity,” Brown said. “Disability is usually included in lists of diversities but very rarely acknowledged and certainly not acknowledged at the same level that some other forms of diversity are.”
Brown said that in her opinion, Georgetown is not a disability-friendly school.
“Absolutely horrible comments that people receive from their peers, from their neighbors, from professors in classes … make it very adamantly clear for me that people with disabilities, especially non-apparent disabilities don’t feel safe, let alone included, at this university,” she said.
The participants of the Twitter protest tweeted about the disrespect and ableism present in the Georgetown community.
“Access and inclusion for disabled students shouldn’t be optional or above and beyond. It should be the bare minimal standard,” Brown tweeted.
“Learning that a professor can deny you an accommodation if it ostensibly ‘compromises the objectives of the course,’” Rivera tweeted.
“Say ‘n*****’ or ‘f****’ and you could get expelled or fired. Say ‘r*****’ and no one bats an eye,” DeLorenzo tweeted.
“I tell people that I’m autistic, and they say, ‘Don’t put yourself down like that; you’re so smart.’ I can’t be smart and disabled?” Brown tweeted.
“Having CAPS outright tell you, ‘we don’t deal with your kind here,’” tweeted DeLorenzo.
The need for the existence of a disability cultural center was mentioned by Brown to President John J. DeGioia at a public forum; however, the idea has not been met with a response.
“The only time you ever see anyone on campus talking about a disability, 99 [percent] of the time, it’s either something that should be hidden or kept secret because there’s some kind of stigma attached to it,” Brown said.
According to Brown, the role of such a cultural center would be to promote conversation, awareness and acceptance of an area of diversity that is often neglected.
“Essentially, a DCC’s role on campus would be very multi-faceted, but its significance can’t be underscored because the establishment of the DCC essentially is the institutional recognition and affirmation of the disability community and an integral part of our campus diversity,” Brown said.
Disability cultural centers already exist at the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington-Seattle and Syracuse University.
The majority of the tweets utilizing #BDGU were from Brown, DeLorenzo, Rivera and Rosenfield, although the conversation attracted a few Twitter users from outside of the Georgetown community.
“Interested to follow #BDGU today. Being disabled at Gtown an issue I didn’t think enough about until after grad, working at Special Olympics,” Gina Elliott (SFS ’12) tweeted.
As with the other Twitter campaigns, Director of Student Engagement Erika Cohen Derr tweeted her support.
“Pay attention to #BDGU today, #Hoyas. Disabilities often get short shrift in conversations on diversity. Share your thoughts,” Cohen Derr tweeted.
“I would have liked it to be broader,” DeLorenzo said, but he added, “I’d say it’s a fruitful start.”