Staff Editorial: Recent accommodations incidents share exacerbated inequalities during COVID-19
Students should not have to depend on each others’ advocacy
Preparing for and moving into college is a difficult transition period for anyone. This semester’s added stress of returning to campus and modified in-person classes was felt by the entire American University community.
This stress, however, is no excuse for letting down students who are asking their university for help and the accommodations that they need to get the most out of their college experience.
The experiences of two students outlined in a recent Eagle article make it clear that the University would rather brush accommodation requests under the rug than proactively meet them. Claire Kolmansberger detailed delays in the approval of her accommodations, which she received only after her doctors reminded the University of its legal responsibility to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It is unacceptable that the burden fell and continues to fall on a student and her medical team to fight for her needs. The University should have gone out of its way to make sure it was complying with her needs. Instead, it gave Kolmansberger a single room just two weeks before the semester started after repeated urging from her doctors.
Darya Iranmanesh’s move-in difficulties prove that not only does the University need to be more diligent overall, there needs to be an emphasis placed on interorganizational communication. The lack of communication between the Office of Housing and Residence Life and the Academic Support and Access Center (ASAC) led to multiple failures. ASAC did not sufficiently communicate Iranmanesh’s accommodations with HRL, whose staff also didn’t receive adequate training. COVID-19 procedures make any job more difficult, but this cannot come at the expense of student accommodations. The University should have anticipated difficulties and taken steps to ensure incidents like the ones Iranmanesh experienced did not happen.
One of the many things the past year and a half has done is exacerbate the inequalities that were always present across communities. The pandemic can shine a spotlight on various issues that are too often overlooked. It is up to the University to take note and make the necessary changes. It cannot always wait for students to express their indignation before it starts working toward real change. Instead of waiting for moments like these, moments when students are failed by the administration, the University must take clear action to show students why these mistakes won’t happen again.
The difficulties students with disabilities face with ASAC are so prevalent that an unaffiliated student club, AU Disabled Student Union, has taken the responsibility of providing resources to help fellow students navigate the organization. Why is it so difficult to request accommodations that students who already went through the process feel the need to help other students do the same? The University must devote time and resources towards helping students acquire the things they need to have a positive experience at AU. Students should not have to depend on each others’ advocacy.
Students who need accommodations deserve comprehensive objectives the University will accomplish by a set deadline, the end of this semester for example. In the vast variety of issues the administration has to deal with, what students like Kolmansberger and Iranmanesh are asking for are very simple. Those accommodations, however, have a huge impact on the way those students are able to exist at AU. If our administration isn’t working to support its students, who is it working for?