Todd Olson faces questions about safe spaces and accessibility concerns at diversity town hall meeting
Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson got all the tough questions at yesterday’s diversity town hall meeting. While Olson answered each question, he did not commit to any specific plans of action on all of the issues, including disability rights and accessibility concerns on campus.
Olson at least confirmed that plans to consolidate the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, the Women’s Center, and the LGBTQ Center are no longer being considered by Georgetown’s administration.
“You have my commitment and our commitment that as we talk about the future, that future will include distinctive, named, identifiable CMEA, Womens’s Center, LGBTQ Center,” Olson said. “Those will not go away. We’ve also heard loudly and clearly the importance of physical safe space for those centers.”
In his opening remarks, Olson also stressed his self-proclaimed focus on addressing issues facing disabled students, a claim that was repeatedly disputed by Lydia Brown (COL ’15), a woman with autism and disability rights advocate.
“Why don’t you commit to a firm timeline on any of the issues raised in the disability justice working group?” Brown asked. “Not just the disability cultural center, but issues around access to sign language interpreting services, issues around physical accessibility on campus during construction, issues around the curriculum … We don’t have a concrete timetable on any of these very salient issues, yet you keep reiterating that there’s supposedly some serious commitment.”
Olson responded to Brown bluntly.
“I don’t think I’m going to make you happy,” Olson said. “I’m not going to get to a specific commitment of a time frame on these issues at this meeting tonight.”
Zoe Dobkin (SFS ’16) expressed concern about perceived lack of transparency in the University’s handling of the potential consolidation of the cultural centers.
“We’re still struggling through this set of issues,” Olson said in his response. “There’s not some crystal clear, even close to final plan.”
Olson also said that the University would be examining the usage of space on the third, fourth, and fifth floors of the Leavey Center. He did not, however, say that the Voice would be getting its (much larger) old office back.
Other issues brought up concerned increasing awareness of cultural centers for graduate students, adding programs without increasing budgets, medical leaves of absence, and undocumented students.
Olson addressed each question but did not provide any firm commitments to action.
Photo: LGBTQ Resource Center