Everyone’s Welcome

It’s story time: Once upon a time, a professor had a disabled student in her class, and she wanted that student to drop,

“It’s too much work to accommodate this disabled student! She could take another class! My class is not even required!”

The issue was transcripts for videos, of course. Transcripts are work. A lot of work. And the professor didn’t want to do it. She didn’t want to speak from scripts either, so here we were, at an impasse, with a professional educator telling me she wanted a student to drop her class.

Let’s stop for a moment here so I can tell you something. To me the best thing about working in higher ed is the diversity of opinion. For almost 25 years I’ve worked with people who believe things, and believe them strongly. They know the facts, they can take the deep dives and reflect passionately (and at length…) about right and wrong, good and bad. Diversity of opinion rocks the house.

But sometimes, people are just plain wrong. And wanting a student who needs accommodation to drop because that accommodation is just too much trouble, well, that’s wrong. No two ways about it.

We can’t promise someone an education. Real learning happens inside a person. It changes them. Transforms them. We can’t make that happen.

But we can promise access to an education, and in higher ed, providing that access is our job. Whether a student is apathetic or driven, ignorant or well-read, ready or not, it’s our job to provide them access to the most proven way to improve their lives.

It has not always been this way. In fact, for a very long time higher education particularly has been about serving an elite and aiding it in its aim to perpetuate itself. But that changed in the mid twentieth century with the GI Bill, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, and the many other societal changes that helped usher in the new millennium.

Today, we have a changed educational landscape. Higher ed does more than simply tolerate women, African Americans, the poor, adults, and all kinds of other groups “new” to the picture. Today’s universities and college thrive because of that diversity, not in spite of it.

Diversity is what makes us strong, and diversity means offering the same opportunities to everyone. So, instead of a story, how about we play a game? Whenever you hear the word “disabled,” substitute the “African American” or “female” and see what you think. You can start with the sentence at the top of this blog post.

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