GUSA & Vice President Todd Olson approve joint-funding plan for accessibility

After hearing from several student groups on campus, Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15), Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) President, Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15), GUSA Vice President, and Rob Shepherd (MSB ’15), Chair of Finance and Appropriations of the GUSA senate, worked closely with Todd Olson, Vice President of Student Affairs to allocate funding for campus-event accommodations.

“Funding for disability accommodation has been on GUSA’s radar for some time now,” said Shepard. “Trevor was the mastermind behind the cost-sharing concept, so he’s the one who initiated our meeting with Todd Olson and Assistant Dean for Student Engagement Erika Cohen Derr.”

Tezel, encouraged by Olson’s willingness to work on the issue of funding with GUSA members, said “Both sides tried to brainstorm a reliable funding system. Going into the annual GUSA Budget Summit, we wanted to make sure we had a game plan going into next academic year.”

“We see this fund as a source for any disability accommodations, depending on the student’s disability and the resources available in the local area,” Jikaria said. “In many instances, this will mean American Sign Language interpreters for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. We want to make sure that this fund can respond to the broad array of accommodations that students may need.”

The plan will create a new account, the “GUSA Access Fund”, from which students may request funding for any type of accommodation they may need to attend campus events. The Division of Student Affairs will be responsible for 80% of the monetary means of the fund while GUSA will commit to 20%.

Despite this development, some members of GUSA do not believe joint funding will continue. “Most of GUSA’s initiatives are funded entirely by students, and that is not likely to change. So [no,] joint funding between GUSA and Student Affairs will not become more common,” explained Shepherd. “This Access Fund will allow all students to take full advantage of Georgetown’s extracurricular offerings, and that’s why we [GUSA] and the administration agreed that the majority of funding should come from the University.”

Tezel and Jikaria, however, think otherwise. “I think it will depend on the issue. In this case, the university is bearing most of the financial burden for an issue that students inherently see as a problem of legal compliance,” said Tezel. “I think that the nature of such agreements will depend heavily on the issue at stake and the budgetary outlook for both parties. Either way, we think it’s a great example of student-administrator collaboration.”

GUSA’s appeal to have university money contributing to the “GUSA Access Fund” was taken well by administrators. “We are always open to exploring partnerships,” said Olson.

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