Monday, November 22, 2010

Letter from Peter Buckley to SOU President Cullinan and Dean O'Bryon

President Cullinan and Dean O'Bryon--

I would respectfully request that you reconsider your decision to deny access to Eliza Schaaf to the last two class periods of Intro to Ceramics. It is truly baffling to me why SOU would refuse to listen to its students, its community and its most ardent supporters and insist on a course of action that seems to me to be remarkably short sighted and clearly unnecessary.
 I have spoken to SOU faculty members who are heartbroken at the actions your administration is taking, believing that you are not only making the wrong choice as educators, but are undoing with one decision years of work to build support for SOU in the community and beyond.

It is worth pointing out, in my view, that when the university administration spends more time and resources with attorneys making sure you can legally justify your decision than with the student involved, with her classmates, or even with SOU faculty members to try to work out a solution to a specific situation, you have a clear indication that you are on the wrong path.

I do not understand the lack of communication with Eliza, the lack of willingness to speak to her classmates for input as to if her presence in the classroom was disrupting their education in any way whatsoever, the decision made by administrators who did not observe the class periods where Eliza had the personal assistance that was readily available to her, and the drawing of a line of academic purity for a student who is auditing an intro to ceramics course. I am not sure how SOU could have handled this any worse, and again, I ask that you reconsider your decision, allow Eliza to complete the two classes as both she and her classmates so clearly desire, and that we work together to develop procedures for the future to ensure that this situation does not ever have to be repeated.

My office has begun research into other universities' policies for students with developmental disabilities, and I am confident that with good will for all involved, and with a goal of serving students first and foremost, we can come up with policies that work for all concerned. From the start, that is all I have requested from SOU in this situation, that you please seek a solution to the benefit of all concerned--not a solution that might benefit an administrator or administrators who made a certain decision at a certain point in time, but for all concerned. Please listen to the feedback that you are receiving that the decision you are making is not credible for a student who is auditing an intro to ceramics class, has personal assistance readily available, is not seen in any way as a disruption by her fellow students, and is only seeking to complete two class periods that now appear to be in far more danger of being disrupted by her absence than her presence.

As a policy maker, there have been numerous times when I have made a decision that has turned out to be incorrect, and that I needed to change course on. I am asking you as administrators to do the same. There is absolutely nothing in your informal grievance process that disallows you from reversing your decision, so again, I am asking that you reconsider the information you have gathered during the process, perhaps even be willing to consider the information provided by every single student in the class stating that Eliza is not a distraction and is not taking time or focus away from their education in the classroom, and to be courageous enough to change course to truly work to resolve this specific situation.

Rep. Peter Buckley

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