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Tbilisi Theatre University faces backlash for prohibiting disabled students

29 June 2017
Shota Rustaveli Theatre and Film University in Tbilisi (Netgazeti)

Georgia’s Shota Rustaveli Theatre and Film University is facing public backlash after being accused of refusing to admit people with disabilities.

Twenty-six-year-old Nutsa Gogaladze said that she wanted to study acting at the university’s Drama Faculty, but was rejected several times because she had a prosthetic eye. Later she found out that one of the criteria for being admitted to the faculty was ‘to have no physical defects’.

Gogaladze’s story was first broken by social media project Women of Georgia, where women from around Georgia share personal stories about difficulties they face in their communities.

While speaking about the Drama Faculty’s entry criteria, Giorgi Margvelashvili, the university’s rector, told TV channel Imedi that a person, who ‘cannot hear, has no sense of rhythm, or one who is fully blind, cannot take acting lessons’.

The university told local news outlet On.ge that ‘irreparable organic defects’ are incompatible with the profession of acting and that disabled people would struggle to follow the curriculum.

An official document laying out the requirements for studying acting at the Drama Faculty says that the first round of the recruitment process includes an examination of physical characteristics, speaking skills, hearing, and ‘examining whether an applicant has an irreparable organic defect’.

Georgia’s Public Defender’s Office said that the requirement was illegal, as it was discriminatory towards people with disabilities.

‘The right to education must be available to everyone’, the Public Defender’s statement read.

Margvelashvili responded to the criticism by saying that the requirement ‘had always been around’.

Several people gathered in protest on 27 June in front of the university, urging the administration to drop the requirement.

‘I am aware of several cases when students were rejected only because of their weight, nose, ears, and so on’, Liberali quoted the organiser of the demonstration, Mariam Dolidze as saying.

Protesters held posters reading, ‘discrimination has no place in universities’, ‘no to aesthetic fascism’, and ‘stop discriminating, teach’.