Thursday, March 29, 2007


Okay. So I'm pissed. Here's the deal.

Earlier this week, when I took my bus ride to Dream Uni City, I ran into one of my students. I sat with her, and we chatted the whole way. Among many other things (god, students are motormouths), she was telling me about the Disability Services Office and what they've provided for her, as someone with a learning disability. When she arrived at the university three years ago, she was given a computer and a software program that costs thousands of dollars. She was telling me that Dream Uni is known to have one of the best disability services programs out there. I wasn't surprised - I've gotten the sense they're pretty active and effective. So that was fine.

Then yesterday, another student came to to see me in my office. Pretty much as soon as she opened her mouth, she melted down. Pregnant with her third child and having a very difficult pregnancy, with little help from her partner at home, and overly conscientious (she's the type who hands in assignments three weeks early), she's not faring well with the end-of-year crunch that is at its most intense this week. One of the things she told me was that she is having a conflict with the Disability Services Office, so she's worried about writing her exam for me there.

The story with her is that she's visually impaired. She has very, very low vision, and various accommodations are made for her, as they should be, around this issue. The conflict arose when she asked the Disability Services Office to reimburse her $125 toward the cost of the special glasses she needs. They said no, that's not a disability-related educational expense. Even though they'd paid the entire cost of her glasses in her first year of her degree, three years ago. And even though she CAN'T READ WITHOUT THOSE GLASSES! So, how is this not an educational expense??? She can't get an education without the glasses, plain and simple. And they made it clear to her that should she appeal the decision, she would be making their lives difficult at a busy time of year.

This seems fucked to me. They are willing to spend thousands of dollars per student with a learning disability, but not to give this one student $125 every three years?

But that's not the worst of it. She's graduating this spring. When she went to folks (at the convocation office, I guess) to ask them if she could have a guide (after all, the graducation ceremony is going to be spanning locations she's not familiar with), they said, "There'll be people around you can ask for help." Putting the burden on the person with the disability to "ask" on what is supposed to be a special day for her. Finally she got someone to be her guide (the departmental secretary), but she has been told, now, that she will not be allowed to take part in the procession of graduating students because it will ruin the uniformity of the look!

I CANNOT get over this. It is simply shocking discrimination, so shocking that I know a sharply worded threatening letter that includes the words "violation of the Human Rights Code" would rectify the situation immediately and get the person who told her this in some hot water.

When she was telling me this, I was outraged, and told her I would write a letter. She, overwhelmed and tired of it all, did the classic thing, shaking her head "no, no, no", and saying she just wants it to be done. Of course I won't write a letter and advocate for her against her wishes, but I'm just itching to have something done about this. Gah.


What Now? said...

Sounds like some significant changes have happened in the Disability Office in the last three years, since both the computer and the glasses were fully funded three years ago.

It is simply outrageous that this student can't go through graduation. That's the kind of thing that I'd protest to the Dean of Students or someone, since being deprived of the graduation ceremony is a punishment, the kind of thing that could continue to rankle years later. Is it possible to make an informal phone call, even if the student doesn't want you to write a formal letter?

dbm/gaa said...

Write the letter. This is one time you can go against a student's wishes because it isn't just about her, this kind of uneven policy application has far-reaching impacts. She probably will never even know you've written it, hopefully they'll just back down and tell her she is included.

Good god Universities are horrible places sometimes.

iFreud said...

Sic 'em. That is disgusting! There is no way that should be ignored.

Medieval Woman said...

This is totally infuriating!! And I too think you should sic 'em!