Written by Jessica Espinoza
Megaphone Staff Writer
It is a rather ironic state of affairs when an office referred to as the Center for Academic Success is, in fact, impeding the success of students at every turn, especially those with disabilities.
The employees of the CAS claim to support ideals of empowerment and independence yet are actually taking power and confining independence by creating a web of bureaucracy so convoluted that it would put the legal system to shame.
Consider, please, the red tape involved in acquiring accessible textbooks. Almost as soon as registration is completed, disabled students are required to have a booklist from all of their professors, because accessible texts can take anywhere from six to eight weeks to arrive.
This would be perfectly all right, aside from the fact that most professors do not have their booklists prepared until the first day of classes. By the time the books arrive in their digital format, the student has already fallen considerably behind his or her contemporaries.
If, by some miracle of chance, a booklist is available, it then falls to the student to go to the bookstore and purchase bound printed copies of books they will never technically use. These books are taken to the Center of Academic Success. Then, and only then, can the CAS even begin submitting requests to publishing companies for texts in alternative formats.
If this scenario confuses you, don’t be alarmed. It confuses the vast majority of the human population.
One would think that, due to the undoubted inefficiency of this plan, Academic Services would be going out of its way to make the process as smooth as possible. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, the various advisors, mentors and directors adopt a laissez faire policy of complete distance with their clients, answering questions and dispensing aid only when it is absolutely unavoidable.
Supervisors at the CAS assert that every flaw in the service program, no matter how obviously circumstantial, is an example of the inability of disabled students to advocate for themselves and take responsibility for their own academic progress.
What most of these advisors, mentors and directors fail to realize is that we, the students, are sincerely trying to be advocates and take charge of our lives. No one, as I recall, is requesting preferential treatment. In fact, most people with disabilities loathe special treatment. Asking a few simple questions and expecting a few simple answers does not demonstrate a lack of responsibility.
We are told by Academic Service representatives that we are adults and should act accordingly, yet we are continually treated as small children. The theory is that, if our earnest and completely logical wishes are ignored for long enough, we will disappear.
No one bothers to remember that asking an entire student body to evaporate away and take its questions elsewhere is quite a tall order.
Since we cannot disappear, it stands to reason that the Center of Academic Success will have to live up to its highly-inflated name, acknowledge our criticisms and work in collaboration with us to provide workable, long-term solutions.
Admittedly, steps are beginning to be taken in the right direction. The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) is now able to pay for the textbooks of students who are disabled. Also, Academic Services has shown considerable alacrity in securing grants for student activities.
Last semester’s theatre production “A Mystical Quest to Slay Normalcy” was performed as a result of a grant procured with the assistance of CAS advisor Kimele Carter. They have also been instrumental in programs regarding diversity; including Theatre for Social Justice and the student-run activist group Advocates.
There is, however, still a long road to travel and innumerable changes to be made. It can only be hoped that our leaders at the Center for Academic Success will be willing to transition and adjust.