Students in Cal Poly’s Disability Alliance club created a petition in late November against being required to complete a new form titled the “Excused Absence Agreement.”
The form has sparked outrage among club members because it is one of the questions that allows professors to determine the maximum number of disability-related absences a student can have before it affects their success in the course. I was.
“We were very angry. Lehr had a waived absence policy that allowed him to miss classes for disability-related reasons without affecting his grades if his pain became so severe from his chronic illness that he could not attend classes. I am using the accommodation.
Forms make them anxious for many reasons, most of them related to discrimination, Lehr said. Their biggest immediate concern was that they might have to disclose their personal medical information to the professor to prove they needed a certain number of absences.
“I don’t like to get to the heart of my diagnosis and things like that. It’s pretty personal,” Lehr said. “You don’t have to reveal it to access your rights.”
Separately, Lehr said he was concerned about the possibility of having to negotiate needs that could affect his relationship with his professor.
“If you put limits on how often a professor can use the accommodation, you’re never going to respect that professor,” Lehr said. I said that it was not more important than the class of
They also said they were concerned about the possible discrimination they might face from professors with whom they do not currently have a good relationship.
“Mostly [the Disability Alliance] I experienced some form of discrimination from my professors,” said Lehr.
Lehr said the first three questions on the form, which revolve around communication, such as how students notify professors of disability-related It is said that it is held responsible for
Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News that the form is intended as a communication tool, not a policy change.
This form was created after the Disability Resource Center (DRC) received complaints from faculty that they were not notifying professors when students used waived absentee facilities.
“Prior to the form, if a student reached so many absences that it interfered with their ability to succeed in the course, faculty would contact the DRC and experts would assist the student in considering options such as withdrawal. . . “A form question, after a student reaches that number of absences, is looking at it on the front end, not the back end.”
Lazier also writes that the form does not require students to divulge personal medical information.
“The existing process, which has not changed with this new form, has always been managed by the DRC, so faculty and staff will not ask questions about disabilities or seek confirmation of any kind for disability-related absences. is clear, ”Lazier wrote.
He wrote that students with concerns about the form are encouraged to contact the DRC to discuss it.
MW Kaplan, senior communications president and president of the Disability Alliance, said he understands the intent of the agreement, but still expects it to lead to discrimination.
“I think their intention is for instructors and students to have a dialogue and understand what’s best to help students while maintaining the integrity of the class,” Kaplan said. That conversation inherently involves a power imbalance in which a marginalized group of students must demand equal access to class from someone who has power over them.”
In addition, Kaplan said professors already hostile to DRC students might see the agreement as an opportunity to limit student accommodation, even though it was not the intent of the form. I was.
A better way to deal with the problem of excuses for absence, Kaplan said, is to set a standard maximum for every class and, once a student reaches that maximum, ask an access specialist and professor to determine next steps. said to set up a meeting with
“I think it’s very important to involve a student access specialist, who is responsible for protecting students,” Kaplan said. “There is no equal conversation between professor and student. There is never a situation where the student is not at a disadvantage.”
Kaplan said there is a general lack of understanding surrounding disability among Cal Poly professors.
“If [professors] “Given that students are lazy and have extended deadlines or excused absences, they will very strongly oppose it,” Kaplan said. , due to the prevailing cultural belief that being lazy is morally bad.”