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Disability Inclusion at Vanderbilt

This petition had 318 supporters


Dear Chancellor Zeppos, 

Vanderbilt is changing. The campus is abuzz with student-led change; student-led movement. Hidden-Dores revolutionized the way that underrepresented voices are heard on this campus. Project Safe has promoted victim-first advocacy and our first Chief Diversity Officer was recently appointed.

Today, we are requesting that you join forces with the disability community and bring about more change. This type of change is about a form of diversity that is not usually celebrated. It will probably never grace the cover of an admission’s catalog or be promoted on Vanderbilt’s homepage. 

In 2015’s spring faculty address you bravely stated that, “We need to go from diversity to tolerance to acceptance to full inclusion and to build a real community.” 

We agree with you wholeheartedly. Real community is the fundamental force that drives the Vanderbilt experience. Community should not only be a buzzword; it should be organically driven. It takes practice, care, and real devotion to flourish and grow. 

Today, we write you to say that it is time for Vanderbilt to recognize disability as a form of diversity and difference. The current arrangement of the student facing aspect of disability services focuses on serving the university and not the students. By having the Disability Services Office under EAD, the focus of the office becomes purely about ensuring that the university is meeting all its compliance obligations under IDEA and Title IX.

 But this is not a compliance issue. This is about promoting “equality, compassion, and excellence in all endeavors” including treating students with disabilities with respect. To help achieve this, we have found examples of our peer institutions that have succeeded in honoring the diversity and difference that disability brings. The research has shown that the following three best practices are key in ensuring that students with disabilities are viewed as people who bring value to the university and not as compliance issues:

 1. Establish a committee under the Chancellor or Provost that examines and ensures that Vanderbilt is meeting its institutional obligation to fully support, welcome, and recruit students with disabilities.

2. Align the student facing side of Disability Services with the Dean of Students Office to reflect that this is not just a compliance issue.

3. Relocate the student facing aspect of disability services to a location on central campus that is accessible and welcoming.

 We know that it is possible “to build a real community” on Vanderbilt’s campus.

 Today, we are asking for support in ensuring that all Vanderbilt community members have a chance to fully experience the real Vanderbilt community. We are asking that disability is no longer an afterthought after affirmative action.

 Sincerely,

 The Vanderbilt Community



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