Yesterday Lydia Brown, a student disability activist at Georgetown was supposed to help lead a training on accessibility and student programming. The event was hosted by the campus Center for Student Engagement, and Brown showed up as promised. There was soda, there was pizza, and there was nobody there.
Brown blogged about the incident last night, writing that
Nothing demonstrates more clearly the utter disregard that disabled people face every day at Georgetown than this. That of literally hundreds of student organizations with hundreds (possibly even creeping into the low thousands) of students involved on their boards or other leadership positions, not even one person deemed it worth their while to learn about access and inclusion.
I agree with all that, and I’d like to add one more thought: For student affairs staff to humiliate a student like this is indefensible.
Planning an event like this shouldn’t just be a matter of sending out an email blast or putting up a notice on Facebook. You need to reach out one-on-one to the people you want there. You need to get commitments. You need to make sure that there are people in the seats, and you need to know who those people are going to be.
And if you reach out and you get rebuffed? If it’s a couple of days before the event and you don’t know who’s going to be there? You tell your guest. You give them a heads-up and you tell them what you’re doing to drum up turnout. And if all else fails, you cancel.
For student affairs staff who are paid — paid! — to organize events like this to invite a campus activist for students with disabilities to address student organization leadership and then allow her to show up to an empty room without warning is an insult and a dereliction of the their responsibilities.
The folks responsible should be embarrassed, they should be apologetic, and they should be taking concrete steps to repair the damage that they’ve done.