AccessibilUT 2.0: Accommodations Campaign
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Through the continued implementation of face-to-face and hybrid classes by the University of Texas at Austin in response to COVID-19, immunocompromised students at our university face great dangers and difficulty being amongst the population on campus in order to obtain a proper education from their classes.
Students with disabilities and prior health conditions are put more at risk with the presence of COVID-19. The university is asking for students to make a dangerous choice between preserving their health and gaining an unaccommodating education.
While students can continue to request accommodations via the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, this process is known to be bureaucratic for many students with disabilities. Though this existing process legally requires professors to follow accommodations, there have been numerous instances where students were not given these necessary accommodations despite constant followups. In fact, students are often unable to receive accommodations until the semester is mostly complete due to a lack of actionable conversation between SSD and stubborn professors. Ultimately, the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19 should further encourage professors to be considerate of all students in their classroom.
In light of the global health pandemic, the UT Student Government in specific collaboration with the Disability and Inclusion Agency, students with disabilities and students who are immunocompromised, call on professors to:
1. Extend deadlines on all assignments for students who contract COVID-19, have a disability, and/or are affected by circumstances related to COVID-19.
- Though attempts for accommodating extension deadlines exist for students with disabilities through Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) and for students with COVID-19 through Student Emergency Services (SES), professors have declined this accommodation in the past, meaning that students have still been docked points for turning in an assignment late due to a disability or COVID-19 related stress despite these measures being in place.
- We cannot ask simply for a 24-hour or two week general deadline extension, as students have different circumstances mentally, physically, etc. Therefore, we ask for the opportunity for students to be able to submit all and any assignments by the end of the semester for full credit without having to go through a tedious process to prove their disabilities.
2. Permanently abolish all class attendance policies and requirements.
- Attendance requirements can force students with disabilities and students who are immunocompromised to attend classes when they are physically and mentally unable to do so, due to their medical condition. Students with disabilities can attest that their attendance in a classroom is by no means indicative or reflective of their performance in that class, and that policies that penalize students who miss class can actually negatively affect their academics.
- The University should additionally provide a centralized disclosing system by colleges to hold professors accountable who do not provide reasonable accommodations and/or violate the no required attendance policy.
3. Post all classroom materials online.
- This includes all slides, class notes, and lectures with subtitles.
4. Provide an online option for their courses that counts for credit.
- This includes laboratory courses. Students who are immunocompromised currently cannot afford to attend classes in-person, due to the high risk of contracting COVID-19.
We additionally ask the University to:
1. Restrict the ability of student organizations (e.g. Greek organizations) to hold in-person events, and hold students accountable who put community members at risk of contracting COVID-19.
- While there are existing measures by UTPD and the city of Austin, the response looks much different in reality than it does on paper. Several events (i.e. Gone to Texas, UT Ring Ceremony, UT football games, etc.) have been held in-person this Fall 2020 semester without correct social distancing policies and mask enforcement, putting university students and families at risk. Therefore, we are asking for more action from UT.
- Our recommendations include, but are not limited to:
- Segmented time slots for events
- Limiting a number of people in a general space at a time
- Socially distanced seating
- Mandatory mask requirements (even for photos) and the enforcement of this requirement
- Evidence of COVID-19 testing completed within the past week for all attendees and participants involved
2. Increase SSD funding
- There have been concerns that disabled students are not being given a proper representative to help negotiate with their professors at all times. We want SSD to be staffed with more representatives that can help with the process and interact directly with the professors in a timely manner.
The University of Texas at Austin Student Government plans to amplify these demands made by members of the disabled community by sharing this petition on our social media, and bringing these demands to Faculty Council meetings to endorse. If you would like to share your experience with these faculty members anonymously, please fill out this form. Additionally, if you would like to stand in solidarity with students with disabilities, please email your professors using this letter template, urging them to adopt these accommodations in their classrooms.
** NOTE: An earlier version of this petition called for the reinstatement of the University's opt-in Pass/Fail Policy for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021; a modified version of this policy was recently approved by University administrators on 11/25/2020, thanks to the efforts of student advocates.
The University of Texas at Austin Student Government Executive Board
Annabeth Cummins, Luke Chitwood, Ria Bhasin, Ria Otwani, Samantha Miles, Suseth Muñoz
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