18 February 2015

GUSA Exec 2015 Disability Questionnaire: Joe Luther and Connor Rohan

I have condensed the questions, which appeared in long-form in the questionnaire sent to candidates with background information and examples, to highlight each candidate's answer. This year there were ten questions. These are the responses provided by Joe and Connor. You can also read responses from Tim and RenoChris and Meredith, Sara and Ryan, or Abbey and Will.

Photo: Joe and Connor pretending to be serious while wearing suits and doing a prom-pose on Healy's steps. 

1. What would you do or change to combat ableism (disability oppression, prejudice against the disabled) and make Georgetown a more welcoming and inclusive campus for disabled students if elected?
Initially, we hoped to purchase an unmanned spacecraft, strap Dr. Holahan in with a package of Double Stuf Oreos, and jettison her into our magnificent galaxy. However, in- depth research and several IRB approved focus groups suggest that the general public would not smile upon this initiative (and anyway, we have not been able to determine if space travel falls within the GUSA purview). As such, we have cobbled together a few alternative ideas about combatting ableism at Georgetown. We would start by demanding that Master Planning committees prioritize our campus’ urgent accessibility needs. It is unacceptable that some Hoyas cannot easily and safely navigate our existing infrastructure, while master planning initiatives hurtle onward with shiny new construction projects. We would also strive to make Georgetown life more accessible to disabled students; handicap accessible CSJ vans, professors that are well informed about the necessity of sensory breaks and individualized attention, and increased programming about the erasure of disabled voices on campus are necessary to making Georgetown a more inclusive place.

2. What would you do if elected to ensure that conversations and initiatives on diversity, especially those managed or initiated by the GUSA Executive, meaningfully include disability and disabled members of the campus community?

Hey, Undersecretary of Disability Affairs… you up? Oh, nothing. We were just thinking about you. Given that disability is rarely included in campus-wide diversity discussions and initiatives, we were just thinking that we should probably get together more often and work on fixing things. You know, weekly coffee briefings and such. Just you and us. It wouldn’t have to be a date… if you didn’t want it to. You wouldn’t even have to tell people about us. It could be our little secret. But just think about it. You, us, a couple of chai lattes, and the voices of disabled Hoyas chiming into our sweet, sweet diversity work. Town hall-style meetings to discuss accessibility? Advocating for the Disability Cultural Center? An active voice on the Diversity Justice Working Group responsible for periodic updates to students? Yeah, sure, we can bring more people into this if you want. There’s always enough chai to go around.

3. If elected, what steps will you take to advocate on behalf of a plan to create and sustain a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown?

We love Disability Justice for Georgetown and the proposal for a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown – and when you love something, you just wanna tell the whole world. You have to. Your heart feels as though it’ll burst if you don’t share the beauty and mystery of life’s greatest gift. So, yeah. We will be vocal about the importance of establishing a Disability Cultural Center at Georgetown in order to get as many students on board as possible, which we believe will be effective in pressuring the University to include the establishment of a Disability Cultural Centers in the 2018 Campus Plan. Earlier this year we saw how Hoyas mobilized around the proposed consolidation of the LGBTQ Resource Center, the Women’s Center, and the Center for Multicultural Equity; Disability Justice for Georgetown deserves that same momentum. And besides – we doubt that anything but highly organized and outspoken people power will give us the power to grab the administration’s attention.

4. What steps will you take, if elected, to increase visibility and representation of disabled students (both with apparent and invisible disabilities) in leadership roles on campus, whether in GUSA or elsewhere? How will you sustain GUSAs role as a leader in advocating for disability rights at Georgetown?

First, we will make sure that any progress made under Trevor and Omika, as well as other administrations, is not lost in the transition period between our administrations. We’ll sit down with our dear friend TrOmika before they go off to bigger and better things to identify and assess what worked, what didn’t work, and what they think they could have done differently in handling these issues.

For our specific objectives, we will renew and expand the role of GUSA Undersecretary for Disability Affairs. We will not appoint anyone to this position without first considering the recommendations that we will request from several disability rights advocates, activists, and leaders at Georgetown, as well long-time GUSA members with experience in navigating administrative red-tape regarding disability rights. This role is pivotal in defining the organizational character of our administration, and our appointee will have the qualifications and means to affect measurable progress.

By reinforcing consistent representation of disability rights advocates in GUSA and amplifying the collective voice of the students, we can make sure that disability rights remains a priority for all GUSA officials and a foremost concern for all Hoyas.

5.  What steps will you take if elected to investigate the full range of accessibility barriers at Georgetown and advocate for meaningful progress from the administration in addressing them with current campus infrastructure and as part of future construction/renovation/expansion projects?

Together with the Undersecretary of Disability Affairs, the Disability Justice Working Group, and other interested parties, we would seek to gather a full list of formal suggestions about improving accessibility on campus. We would do this through an online anonymous Google Form, a town-hall style meeting, and confidential interviews with representatives from the Disability Justice Working group – ideally, we would offer a wide enough series of opportunities to report concerns that disabled students would be able to share their complaints comfortably. Once a list is compiled, we would present it to Master Planning Committees and meet with several administrators to figure out how to best move forward. When (inevitably) met with resistance from the powers that be, we will strap them to a wheelchair and force them to navigate campus that way for the next three days. We would suggest that this initiative last seven days, but we suspect that the administration is far too weak for that.

6. How will you continue advocacy for further improvements and expansions to accommodations at university-sponsored events and programming?

In addition to ensuring the proper implementation of TrOmika’s cost sharing agreement, we will work with the Undersecretary of Diversity Affairs to create a standardized policy with regard to ADA accommodations for students on campus while fighting for the Disability Cultural Center. The creation of the Disability Cultural Center would allow us to better serve the needs of disabled students on campus, as a centralized source of action and information will provide us with the necessary knowledge and mobilizing force to fight for accommodation. Oh, and we want the cost of ASL interpretation to be paid for by the university. Hey now, not too shabby!

7. What would you do if elected to advocate for meaningful inclusion of disabled people in conversations about us on campus?

We will heavily advocate for the inclusion of disabled students in discussions regarding the 2018 Campus Plan as well as in the planning and execution of any university- sponsored event focusing on disability rights and/or intersecting social justice issues. Though creating a standardized policy for including disabled students in conversations on campus, we will make every effort to be aware of upcoming conversations on campus and reach out to administrators and disabled students to make sure that the voices of disabled students are heard on campus.

8. What will you do if elected to advocate for increased availability of supportive services and community resources at Georgetown for students with disabilities, as well as address existing problems?

In the short run, we will push the University to provide more resources and funding to the ARC to ensure that it is able to accommodate diverse student needs. We will also ensure that the ARC provides students with a clear understanding of its capabilities and responsibilities, and that professors and TAs communicate to their students either on their syllabi or via email that these ARC resources are available. In the long run, the establishment of the Disability Cultural Center will serve as the epicenter of disability supportive services and community resources.

9. What will you do if elected to advocate for reforms to the Involuntary Medical Leave of Absence process?

The current state of Involuntary Medical Leave of Absence is unacceptably opaque. The process of navigating an IMLOA is shrouded in mystery from start to finish, not unlike a Sherlock Holmes novel with the last 40 pages ripped out; it is unclear who is permitted to request that students are placed on IMLOA, whose requests are binding, and whether or not students have a right to a hearing upon being subject to an IMLOA proceeding. This is due to the university’s failure to delineate a clear and accessible policy for handling IMLOA requests.

A Luther-Rohan administration would advocate for the implementation of a standardized and transparent IMLOA policy. This would allow students going through IMLOA proceedings and those currently placed on IMLOA to understand and, if they wish, combat the IMLOA request. This policy will include an appeals process that is currently not available to students placed on IMLOA. Furthermore, we wish to include a position in the Student Advocacy Office that will advocate for those going through IMLOA process, as many students need a knowledgeable and supportive resource to help them navigate the proceedings. Finally, we will pressure the university to amend its criteria for readmission into the school through a standardized, accessible process that maintains the dignity of those seeking readmission.

10. How would you see advocating for expansion and formalization of disability studies related coursework fitting into your administration if elected?

A Luther-Rohan administration strongly believes in the importance of expanding campus- wide awareness of ableism and the obstacles that society places upon people with disabilities. With this in mind, we wish to take a pragmatic approach to formalizing disability studies related coursework by working with the Provost, the Undersecretary of Disability Affairs, to create a class specifically devoted to disability studies. While we understand that there is interest in creating a formal disability studies certificate or minor program, we wish to start with the creation of a single class in order to gauge student interest and, if interest is significant, use the class’ success as leverage with the university in advocating for the creation of a larger program.

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