Sunday, November 21, 2010

Questions for President Cullinan - Cindy Evans Trueblood, Ph.D

Dear Dr. Cullinan,
I ask you to take a careful look at the actions and behavior of all the people in your administration who have participated in assessment of Eliza Schaaf’s participation in Ceramics 255 at SOU. I wonder who these people are and how they reached the conclusions they reached. I wonder whom they feel they are serving. I wonder who or what they think they
are protecting. I wonder if they think their actions have accomplished some goal of the University in providing higher education.
In Dean O’Bryon’s latest letter to Eliza she refers to the decision to continue barring Eliza from the ceramics class as a decision that allows “SOU to meet its institutional obligations”. Later in the letter she indicates that “SOU was required to meet obligations, while protecting the interests of the faculty and other students, and importantly, maintaining the integrity of the fine arts program.”
I ask you to consider these questions.
Who has caused disruption in Ceramics 255?
The October 19 letter from SOU, received by Eliza on November 8, states that Eliza’s presence in the class was disruptive, yet no convincing evidence has been presented and the students in the class have all signed statement saying the Eliza’s presence was not disruptive. I noticed that the November 20 letter does not state that Eliza was disruptive, nor does it apologize for having made that claim inappropriately in the earlier letter. Eliza did not disrupt the course and should not have been excluded on that basis.
However, what is clear is that the behavior of some unnamed people in the SOU administration has been disruptive to the lives of Eliza, her family AND to her Ceramics 255 classmates and the professor of the class. I would ask you to identify these people and ask them to step forward and explain their actions to Eliza and all the rest of us. My 13 year-old son keeps asking me, why did SOU tell Eliza she can’t go to the ceramics class. I have said many things to him trying to explain. I have said that some people at SOU decided that Eliza’s presence in the class was disruptive, but that the students in the class have all said that Eliza was not disruptive. He appropriately continues to ask: “Why won’t they let her be in the class?” I have to admit to him that I truly do not understand. Can you or someone in the SOU administration please explain this to us in language that we can all understand? SOU administrators did disrupt the course.
I hope that you will take action to assure that your administrators do not disrupt other courses at SOU because their actions have substantially damaged the reputation of the University. If you need evidence of this damage please be sure to carefully read thirty or more letters that you have received and take the time to look at the comments of more than 300 people who have signed the online petition asking SOU to let Eliza complete her Ceramics course.
Who has required SOU “to lower essential requirements for participation or provide accommodations that fundamentally alter the course or program of study”?
Dean O’Bryon states in her letter to Eliza that: ”SOU has determined that you are not qualified to participate in this class as we cannot provide you an accommodation that would allow you to fully participate without fundamentally altering the course.” What is the basis of this determination? You have presented no evidence that Eliza’s presence required fundamental alterations to the course. What are the criteria for full participation in the Ceramics course for a non-admitted student who is auditing the course? In what way has Eliza’s participation been lacking and what problems did this cause?
In contrast, the decision to exclude Eliza from the course has led to some alterations in the course and accommodations that that have been made BECAUSE Eliza was excluded from attending the class. In addition this decision clearly caused Eliza not to be able to fully participate in the course.
Based on my assessment of the situation, my answers to the questions I posed are: that; 1) the SOU administration has caused disruption to Ceramics 255 course and; 2) the SOU administration is responsible for “altering the course or program of study” of Ceramics 255.
At the minimum, please provide the courtesy of responding to my questions so that Eliza, and all of us who care deeply about her and the rights of all people, will understand the basis for the University’s decision. I still believe that if you engage your heart and mind, and look carefully at what has transpired, you will see that the right thing to do is to apologize to Eliza and invite her to attend the last two classes with her classmates on November 29 and December 1.
Cindy Evans Trueblood, Ph.D, Molecular Biology ,University of Colorado, Boulder


  1. Thank-you Ms. Trueblood for stating this so eloquently; "all of us who care deeply about her and the rights of all people."
    This indeed is about the rights of all handicap individuals. A mistake has been made by SOU, and there are certainly grounds for legal enforcement-action as well,if correction (and apology) is not made. Your letter is the voice for many and Eliza should be allowed full participation and the chance to learn at SOU.
    Yours truly from: Former graduate student and advocate for the handicap; Linda Lewis Miller.

  2. Cindy, Kelly McMullen Strickland here. I lives on Deb and Ron's farm in TN when Eliza was born. I am currently an Early iNtervention Teacher for the birth to 3 families in Monterey, CA. I to am apalled at this decision. I applaud your commitment to your family and all people wishing to learn. Hope all is well with you and yours.