Support URDifferent, founded at the University of Rochester

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Over the past two years, several students and I at the University of Rochester have tried to start an official on-campus organization called URDifferent, which is one of the first of its kind. In short, it is an organization dedicated to both the awareness and culture of the neurodiverse community, which includes students and others with autism and other social/neurological differences. We seek to hold events that start dialogues between neurodiverse and typically-developing individuals about their experiences as well as recreational events for all where said individuals and groups can celebrate one another and their differences. These would include guest speaker and/or student panels, special interest nights, and potentially even month-long celebrations in April for Autism Awareness Month. More importantly, we want to use this to harbor a community that believes in the notion that all of our differences, whether neurological or otherwise, gives each of us an individually unique and infinite value that makes us inherently beautiful and worthwhile as people - a philosophy that is bold, positive, and one that we believe can be the key to not only uniting the neurodiverse and typically-developing communities, but all communities together.

Our Struggle for Recognition
However, in applying to become a full organization, we were denied recognition by the University of Rochester's Student Association. They based their decision on the grounds that our mission and philosophy are too similar to other disability-related organizations - despite us not considering ourselves specifically disability-related - and that they could not be able to judge this group simply "based on [the] passion [of its members]". This is all despite us writing up a 12-page document outlining the specificities of the group and how it would run, including day-to-day practices, general meeting structures, and Executive Board positions. While their decision may be understandable, SA failed to see that not only would this group put Rochester on the map as founding one of the first collegiate organizations focusing primarily on autism and neurodiversity, but that our philosophy – highlighting something so much larger than just one community and celebrating how each individual is truly like no other – could be the driving force to help unite this community ever better on and off campus.

Why We Need Your Help
All of this is to say that the best way to convince those in SA that our organization and the philosophy behind it is worthwhile is to show them that others value it too, which is what this petition is for. We want to have as many people affiliated with the university as possible – students, faculty, alumni and others – to support this group and express that they believe this organization and its initiative is valuable enough to be given full recognition and financial support by SA and subsequently the university itself. If we are able to have enough individuals that are part of the university speak up about our organization and support it, it could show the overall demand and support for an organization like this at the university and thus likely be the push to help convince SA of giving us the funding and recognition we deserve. Your help and us getting this recognition helps us be able to accomplish our goals and help people of all kinds on campus, but furthermore sends the message that this campus and community truly care about those with autism and others in the neurodiverse community as well as, even more so, celebrate diversity and each person's individual beauty and uniqueness – something few campuses across the country have fully done before.

As someone who has autism and was diagnosed very young, and as someone who hasn't always had a place to truly call home, I want to create a group that – while celebrating my differences and the way I see the world – is a place anyone with any difference can come to. I want to create a place where no one ever has to feel alone, a place where we can all know that while some of us are more different than others, we're all different in our own unique ways, and a place where we can all see our commonalities but truly love one another for the one thing we can each bring to this world that no one else can: ourselves. And helping this organization become that place and one that is equal and valued like any other on this campus is one big step towards that dream - one that I believe I share with so many other people too.

Thank you so very much for taking the time to read all of this, and whether you sign this petition or not, I hope you have an amazing and wonderful day! Know that you are special, beautiful, and loved, always.

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Thomas Ledbetter needs your help with “U of R Student Association: Support URDifferent, founded at the University of Rochester”. Join Thomas and 417 supporters today.