Sunday, November 14, 2010

Please help advocate for Eliza

Dear Family and Friends,

Eliza needs your immediate help. As some of you may or may not be aware, Eliza has been participating in her first college class, "Intro to Ceramics", this fall and very much enjoying it. To make a long story shorter, she and I picked up a certified letter from SOU at the post office this past Monday, Nov. 8th. We were on our way to cla
ss so did not open the letter until Tuesday morning only to learn that SOU has terminated her enrollment - effective immediately. This came as a total shock to us and it has not set well with Eliza or Ron and
I. Despite our best attempts at negotiating we haven't made the progress we want - although yesterday afternoon and evening did bring some potentially encouraging news.

Both Senator Alan Bates and Representative Peter Buckley are going to bat for Eliza and we've learned that her classmates intend to fight for her right to stay in class. Ron spoke with SOU President Mary Cullinan twice by phone yesterday. She had not been aware of the issue or the decision and has promised to check into it. As of tonight, however, we have heard zip and it's high time to make you all aware of this situation.

To help you understand the issue better, I am attaching a series of documents. They include: 1) the letter sent to Eliza from SOU; 2) her and my letters and information that was given to her classmates and teacher this past Wednesday at the end of class - (this was the first class she's missed - because of being barred - and she, who takes her responsibilities as a student seriously, was not happy.); 3) Ron and my letter to SOU delivered today to both the President and the Dean of SOU's College of Arts and Sciences and 4) a collection of emails I have written during the 7 weeks of Eliza's SOU college experience to date.

What we need from you, is your voice, your opinion, your testimonials about Eliza, advocating that she immediately be allowed back in class to complete the last 6 classes of the quarter with her peers. heard that right, she has only 6 classes left and has completed 13 already. We believe that many of the accusations in the letter are false. She has not interfered with the learning and teaching of the class curriculum especially when given the accommodations we requested. The administration has wrongly passed judgment on her abilities and value as a member of the class. All observations and comments were made during the first 2 weeks of class and no visits were made since then and the classmates themselves have never been asked how they were "impacted".

If you have ever wondered how raising a child with a special needs feels, please read, at a minimum, our letter and Eliza's letter to SOU, also the 2 letters to her classmates and teacher and Eliza's Buddy Walk speech given in front of 400 people in September. They are reflective of this being one intensive, emotional week of simply trying to stand up for some one's right to "be there" without being defined forever by a label and prejudged on intellectual ability.

If you care anything at all about believing in a person's right to participate without getting scrutinized over whether you can take in enough intellectually to make it relevant, then we encourage you to speak up now.

Perhaps collectively our voices can move mountains....All I know is that we at least have to try.

We urge you to address your comments to: :

Mary Cullinan, President, Southern Oregon University
Churchill Hall 125
1250 Siskiyou Boulevard
Ashland, OR 97520


Alissa Arp, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, SOU
College of Arts and Sciences
1250 Siskiyou Boulevard
Ashland, Oregon, 97520

and anyone else you think could have a bearing on a decision at SOU. The more creative, the better.

Then email a copy right away to:

Thanks to you all, for your friendship and for your support. They mean the world to Eliza and our whole family. Please pass this on to anyone you feel would like to know so that they can add their voice. I encourage you to write a note to Eliza as well, she has taken it pretty hard and is mystified as to what she has done wrong - all she wants is to be able to go to class this coming Monday, which we are now contemplating letting her do.


Deb Evans and Ron Schaaf
541-601-4748 541-601-7929


  1. Good Luck in your fight with SOU on this, I too am a disabled student attending a College here in Oregon. although I have not had the roadblocks you have had It can be challenging all the same.

    Perhaps you should also contact Senator Ron Wyden's office, I heard he is a real advocate for the Disabled here in Oregon.
    Best of Luck.
    Marlene Remley.
    Portland Oregon.

  2. The links above aren't working- except for Eliza's e-mail GGS.Net sends an error saying I need to be signed on.

  3. I was almost brought to tears by the level of insensitivity apparent in the letter you received from SOU, Eliza.
    I'm so sorry that you're dealing with this, but try to keep in mind that other peoples' ignorance and lack of class isn't your problem.
    My older brother Moses, who also has Downs Syndrome, studied at College of the Redwoods in California. He also loves ceramics, and studied many other things as well.
    I want to tell you that I think you're a really talented artist, and I hope that you keep expressing yourself, no matter what.
    Good luck,
    Ben Brown

  4. I have sent a letter in support of Eliza to the President and Dean. I'm also having trouble sending a copy to you folks, although I have cc'd Eliza directly.
    Keep up the good fight, Eliza!
    Dee Katovitch