Sunday, February 13, 2011

No Word Yet - Update on Eliza

Dear friends and family,

We feel as though we should update those of you who have been following Eliza's story as to what is going on with Eliza and SOU. There is no new news yet...but we anticipate we will hear from SOU President Cullinan shortly. While we have had a breather from the intensity of Eliza's experience last fall, the reality of the situation has settled over us and left us equally sad, mad and determined. If you had a window into our lives, then you would know that Eliza has long shared an adamant
sense of the need to belong and be included in life with all its riches and flaws. Her determination, despite some obstacles, has been remarkable and a trait that has served her well. As a family that has focused on education and personal growth through participating in life, Eliza has grown up with the understanding that learning new things is to be commended and the high standards that general education teachers and students have allowed her to experience, have given her an even greater appreciation and a format from which to feel accepted and included in the real life experiences afforded by an education - both socially and academically.
It is precisely because of her experiences with learning throughout her K-12 schooling that she so desires to continue what she knows how to do and be challenged to grow and find ways to connect with her peers. In many ways, college gives her an 'IN' that is acceptable and accessible to the world of her peers. The maddening thing is what could possibly be a reason why she should be denied this opportunity? We could understand if she were disruptive or unsafe, but to judge someone's intellect and declare it not worthy or appropriate has been unfair and has had a negative impact on her sense of self and to her understanding of the world and, frankly, is just not true.
What is it about human nature that feels compelled to tell people what THEY think someone is not capable of when Eliza shows everyday the relevancy of an education to the quality of her life, her own personal growth and the relationships and understanding she brings to others who are fortunate enough to cross her path. These were the messages that came through loud and clear from many of you who know Eliza and took the time to write on her behalf. It was our daily witnessing of her ability to learn and your echoing that knowledge that makes the actions taken last fall so incomprehensible. Celebrating learning should be what education is about and Eliza would be the biggest cheerleader in the category of exemplifying the power of and all that is good in education. So why, when she brings her own support, would someone care to deny her access? Who is her presence harmful to?
Since we last wrote, here is what we know so far....In mid-January, at the request of President Cullinan, a representative from the Chancellor's office was sent down to SOU to conduct interviews. He interviewed Eliza, a ceramics classmate of Eliza's, the Professor and I'm sure others. He let us know he had a stack of information that he would be reviewing and that he would be giving his findings to the President. He made it clear they were working on it - all trying to get to the bottom of what transpired. While we did not receive direct word, it appears that the Chancellor has granted a 30 day extension giving SOU 60 days to respond from when they received the formal grievance on Dec 17th. By our calculations Eliza should hear something by February 15th.

We would just like to say THANKS AGAIN to so many of you who have taken the time to call, to write...and TO CARE. It has been painful, but we feel your love and support. We are happy to let you know that Eliza, to fill her time and try to get back to something positive in her life, has joined the Ashland Art Center clay cooperative. Artists have communal space in a 3 story building in Ashland where they have their studios. In the basement is a clay studio and members can use the facilities, tools, kilns etc to work on their art. Eliza has started in on some more ceramics projects and enjoys the work. She has also drawn the attention of several of her classmates, fellow SOU students and former Ashland High Students - some of whom are working on and some interested in working with Eliza on various projects featuring her art, her desires and her experiences. She remains steadfast in her determination and desire to be an SOU student and continue taking classes where there is a community of learners, rich social opportunities and the promise of friends, connections and modeling to help her transition to independence and adulthood.

Lastly, for those of you who don't know Eliza well, I have included a letter (see below) that I wrote to the Chancellor's office representative sent down to SOU to investigate. I realized that the one voice they did not ask to hear was mine...and that my insight comes from being there with Eliza and the late night talks we had all fall about her learning. As too often happens, we sometimes mistake someone's abilities simply because we do not personally witness the learning or are privy to dialogs. Eliza's art speaks for itself. Perhaps this letter can help some of you understand better the learning that happened and why we feel so strongly that to deny Eliza flies in the face of every reason we've ever been given as to what the purpose and benefits of education are and why one should stay in school to learn.

Deb and Ron

Deb's Letter to the Chancellor's office

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