DCI Campaign History
Professor Lydia X. Z. Brown (COL ’15) led a campaign for a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown as a student in 2012. On December 21, 2020, Nesreen Shahrour (SOH ‘23), Dominic DeRamo (COL ‘23), and Gwyneth Murphy (SFS ‘23) met with Professor Brown to discuss efforts to establish a campaign for a Disability Cultural Center (DCC) at Georgetown University. Shahrour, as the Chair of the GUSA Accessibility Policy Team, set the DCC campaign as a top priority for the agenda of this student group. The Accessibility Policy Team went on to draft a proposal for a DCC, and shared a petition with the student body, faculty, staff, and other universities’ disability organizations. The petition amassed the support of 755 current students, 100 faculty and staff, 226 alumni, 91 clubs, 17 other universities’ organizations, 26 GU parents, and 44 others. Universities included Brown University, Cornell University, Duke University, Columbia University, and NYU Law School, to name a few. The 1200+ petition signatures and the 2,000 Instagram followers they accrued on the campaign account demonstrated a community-wide call for establishing a DCC at Georgetown.
On January 21, 2021, Professor Libbie Rifkin helped Shahrour, Murphy, and DeRamo set up a meeting with alumni to discuss the proposal and receive feedback on their efforts. One of these alumni was Tiffany Yu, who made the generous promise to donate half of the amount needed to establish an endowment fund. In June, 2021, Georgetown University officially launched the Disability Empowerment Endowed Fund.
The campaign to establish a DCC occurred during a specific local, national, and international context. In Spring 2020, Georgetown launched a cultural climate survey, which showed that disabled students are more isolated and less culturally connected than their nondisabled peers on campus.These alarming findings, coupled with the Georgetown community navigating compounding pushes for social change during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement, served as the unique setting in which student-demand for a DCC escalated.
On February 17, 2021, Shahrour, Murphy, and DeRamo presented the DCC proposal to Provost Robert Groves, Dr. Todd Olson, and Dr. Rosemary Kilkenny at the Provost Advisory Committee Meeting and received an overwhelmingly positive response. During the Spring 2021 and Fall 2022 semesters, these students continued to meet with the Office of Advancement, the Office of Student Equity and Inclusion, and the Division of Student Affairs to coordinate with administration on next steps.
During the last week of January 2022, the Division of Student Affairs posted a position for an inaugural Associate Director of the Disability Cultural Initiative, whose task is “the 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.” A search committee formed with these students, faculty, and staff at the end of March, which led to the hiring of Dr. Amy Kenny in August 2022. Students are excited to see their vision come to life as Dr. Kenny works diligently to promote disability justice and build a more inclusive community on campus.