UC San Diego: Ensure Equal Access To Education for Disabled Students!
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We, the undersigned members of UCSD, the Broader San Diego community, and community members in solidarity, are writing to express our concerns about UCSD’s failure to supply Krys Mendez with timely and appropriate employment accommodations.
Krys is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in Ethnic Studies who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a progressive, neurodegenerative condition that results in damage to the brain and spinal cord. An incurable disease, MS causes a host of symptoms such as chronic pain, migraines, fatigue, numbness, tremors, as well as cognitive and mobility issues.
The aggressive and unpredictable nature of Krys’s condition has prevented him from fulfilling a traditional Teaching Assistant position without undue detriments to his health—a fact that has already been documented and known to the university administration for years.
Nevertheless, just two weeks before the start of the academic year, Krys was terminated from the Writing Program position he was appointed in May by the Disability Counseling and Consulting (DCC) office, a division of the University’s Human Resources department. This termination occurred without a guaranteed and equivalent reassignment, in possible violation of Articles 3 (“Appointment Security”) and 34 (“Reasonable Accommodations”) of the UAW 2865 labor contract.
To state clearly: We are appalled by the administration’s inaction in the face of a well-documented medical history. Krys first sought employment-related accommodations from his department, the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD), and the Disability Counseling and Consulting (DCC) office in 2016, following a severe relapse. At the time, he was granted a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) position with a self-paced workload his condition required, enabling him to advance in his program.
However, when he re-initiated an accommodations request this past Spring quarter, UCSD failed to provide a clear and reasonable pathway for advancing in the program with medically suitable student employment.
It is now mid-September, and despite the abrupt termination, Krys has yet to receive a secure, year-long appointment with equivalent compensation—much less a position that has been adapted for his functional limitations and daily needs. Without this, Krys faces the loss of income security, health insurance, and the fee remissions necessary to maintain his academic status.
This is simply unacceptable. Krys is fighting for his life and managing a fundraiser to pay for his medical bills, all while having to stay on track with his doctoral research. Navigating the bureaucracy of UCSD has drained Krys of valuable time, labor, and energy needed to maintain his health and academic progress.
We demand an immediate resolution to this issue from the The Division of Social Sciences, the Graduate Division, and the Office for Students with Disabilities. It is imperative that this position provide Krys with a reasonable and flexible workload, as strongly advised by his medical providers. Moreover, an appointment letter must also be provided that outlines the exact accommodations Krys will receive in the 2018 - 2019 academic year.
A large research university with as many resources as UCSD has no excuse for withdrawing support from a disabled, queer, PhD student of color in his attempts to access higher education. We demand immediate action as well as a continued commitment to making UCSD more accessible to all students with disabilities and chronic health conditions.
Undersigned UCSD Affiliates
Alexia Arani, PhD candidate, Anthropology
Mellissa Linton Villafranco, PhD candidate, Ethnic Studies
Boke Saisi, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies
*Update: As of September 17th, Krys has been offered a temporary Reader position, allowing him to keep his health insurance through December. While we are pleased that progress has been made on this issue, it nevertheless fails to ensure equivalent income security, health care coverage, and fee remissions for the academic year.*
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