Thursday, April 5, 2007

More excited than I should be about Diversity and Inclusion.

This past fall, MICA did a massive survey of its undergraduate students and their feelings on gender equality, racism, classism, feelings towards students with visible and invisible disabilities, etc. Basically, we find that in a "chocolate city" like Baltimore, it's the students, staff, and faculty of color that feel a lot of isolation and lack of support on-campus. It also doesn't help that nobody in upper management is a person of color, the highest-ranking person being the head of the office of Multi-Cultural and International Student affairs (who has always been completely useless and ignorant of working with Oy!, but whateva), and she actually has been given less power and responsibility over the past couple of years, for a multitude of factors.

My personal sort of arguement is that disability services at MICA suck. The woman who's in charge is qualified on paper, with a doctorate and sensitivity to the artist. But, she is disorganized, has sporradic hours due to the fact that she's legally blind, and has also breached my American with Disabilities Act rights for confiedentiality, putting my name on another students' letters requesting accomidation. The person in charge of the Learning Resource Center needs to be made part of orientation so that people have a face and an idea of 1) what differs about disability services in college 2) how to get evaluated for a disability without spending thousands of dollars and 3) what the LRC can do for you. But, for some reason, this isn't part of what the LRC does. It's got strange hours, I think she just got a grad student helped who's more organized, but at this point, I know even freshmen who, frustrated by the lack of competence and user-friendlyness of the LRC, have decided to muddle through one of the heaviest undergraduate workloads in the country without the disability services they are legally entitled to.

Not to mention MICA does NOTHING to help a college student transition to being a person with a disability in the "real world." My roommate of the past two years, Rose*, has cerebral palsy and limited motor function in her legs, gets around on crutches or a scooter. Somehow, Rose has made it through MICA without learning to use public mobility transportation in the city, without learning how to carry her things to, say, a job interview in the suburbs. And I'm not saying it's 100% the LRC's fault, because it's certainly a matter of personal drive as well, but it didn't encourage her to develop as an adult or become more independent. And if you have students graduating from your school who don't have the complex set of skills and knowledge that let them navigate the "real world," haven't you failed them? You get their money, but reduce their chances that they'll be successful and independent, and MICA -really- needs some students with disabilities to grace it's pages, it needs successful students that result from a successful program, and right now MICA's program barely fulfills legal requirements of the ADA.

So, off the pulpit/bima, this friday a bunch of students have a meeting with the fabulous bow-tied Fred Lazarus, president of our noble institution, as well as other members of student affairs staff, to talk about what we're gonna do about these issues now that we have some quantitative and qualitative information.

Sure, I may not have a 3.5 GPA to show for my college education, but I've done some much more important and lasting work at MICA that will have a lasting impact, and I'm proud as hell of that. It's a lot harder to decide you're going to be part of the community instead of staying in your studio and working throughout art school, and I'm glad I've made the decision I've made.

Now, what do I wear for a meeting with The President?


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