Sunday, November 28, 2010

Newest Letters to the Editor

The following letter to the editor was in yesterday's Mail tribune:

Let Eliza Finish

These 2 letters to the editor were in today's Sunday Mail Tribune:
Appalled and outraged
I am appalled and outraged that student Eliza Schaaf — who happens to have Down syndrome — has been kicked out of her ceramics class at Southern Oregon University.
As a citizen, I am outraged at this blatant disregard for and discrimination against someone with a disability who is merely
trying to attend college like everyone else. As a parent of a senior in high school, I am looking at Southern Oregon University with new eyes, as a place where I do not want my daughter to attend.
Even if the ceramics teacher is telling the truth about Eliza needing more assistance than most students, so what? There are laws to prevent this kind of blatant discrimination even if your personal moral compass does not keep you from doing so.
This teacher should be fired and Southern Oregon University should take steps to see this kind of thing never, ever happens again. People should be outraged at this student's treatment and expulsion from her beloved ceramics class. — Mimi French-Templeton, Eagle Point
I would like to make a comment to Mimi French-Templeton's Letter. While it is tempting to blame a Professor, I am unwilling to do that in this case. I was with Eliza in every one of the 13 ceramics classes she has attended and not once did I get the impression that Eliza's Professor was anything other than supportive of Eliza. While I don't have the perfect explanation of what happened, I do believe there were several people in administrative positions who had issue with Eliza being a student. The Professor may have, but she never indicated that to us and I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Confused by reasoning

I can't understand why Eliza Schaaf has been asked by SOU deans O'Bryan and Arp not to attend the final classes of her introduction to ceramics course. I am confused because:
1. Her classmates all want her to return.
2. The SOU Student Senate passed a resolution of support.
3. Her petition to return to class has been signed by over 500 people.
4. Eliza wants to return to complete the class with her classmates.
Aren't the reasons given to Eliza in the dismissal letter irrelevant now? It appears that the SOU administration has failed to take any of this into account or to have the decency to reconsider. If anything, the actions of SOU are disruptive and fail to meet standards of higher education and the fine art program. Why can't SOU simply let Eliza finish the classes with her classmates?
The most recent offer from Dean O'Bryan states that separate times for finishing work and getting a final critique would be set up for Eliza. Why separate? Is it because Eliza has Down syndrome?
I don't think this is a characterization anyone wants. — Judy Barnes, Medford

Not to think that we are being one sided...The following Letter to the editor was in the Nov. 23rd Ashland Daily Tidings:
In response to this letter, I would like to make two comments. 1. If the author would read through the information on Eliza's BLOG, particularly looking at the emails sent from Deb to Robin, Eliza's ceramics professor, he would see that in no way were we disingenuous and that we contacted the professor a week before class started to let her know that Eliza was signed up to attend class, that she has Down syndrome and that Deb would like to be a support person for her specifically so that curriculum and the classroom environment would NOT be altered. 2. I agree with the author that a lot more clarity is needed on the part of SOU to defend their statement that the learning environment was altered and to explain what part of the rules and regulations at SOU describe the responsibilities of an auditing student. As is evident and witnessed by all of her class peers, Eliza, with asked for accommodations, was very appropriate. The confusion came from the University's lack of experience with having worked with students like Eliza and worry over the implications for their programs. They first allowed her in, next removed - for 2 classes - her support, then felt satisfied they had justification for her removal - without going back to see if she was being successful with the asked for accommodations. The experience could have had a completely different outcome if the administrators overseeing this decision had been willing to look at it with an open mind and felt compelled to work through any difficult parts by communicating and troubleshooting openly with the family. It was, no doubt a learning experience, and one I'm not sure they thought through all the way when making their decision to terminate enrollment 5 classes from the end of the quarter, following the first 4 classes and the 9 classes they let Eliza experience with her needed accommodation. Is more information needed before judgment is passed? Perhaps, but if you read the letters sent from SOU to Eliza, their position is quite clear - SOU is NOT a place for Eliza. We simply disagree and ask to see the specifics of what she did that altered the learning environment, the curriculum and otherwise made her unqualified as a non-admitted auditing student? We appreciate the letter, and hope that the author will see that Eliza is quite shy, the opposite of disruptive and works hard on the things she chooses to do in her life. We feel her presence and participation as a student in the ceramics class did not justify 1. the way she has been treated 2. the action SOU has taken.

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