Campus program must prove it is federally compliant

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Willow Yang/Senior Staff

A campus program that purports to serve disabled students could be lying to the government in a sad attempt to meet federal guidelines. The home of the disability rights movement could once again be letting down marginalized UC Berkeley students. Hopefully this program can turn what some students allege are lies into reality before the next audit.

According to several sources in an article The Daily Californian published Thursday, the campus’s TRiO at Disabled Students’ Program has allegedly been misreporting the number of students it is servicing — perhaps by as many as a whopping 205 people. These services receive $300,902 in federal awards and are supposed to assist at least 250 students with disabilities on campus.

A program coordinator and the DSP director both revealed how poorly run the TRiO program is. They offered conflicting statements on TRiO’s federal compliance and could not account for how 205 of the students had entered the program. On top of that, several students have alleged that they never signed up for TRiO and are not receiving help from the program, even though they are listed as program beneficiaries.

Time and time again, we have seen this campus fail to provide adequate services to disabled students. In 2015, an external auditor found 23 citations where TRiO did not meet federal regulations.

Just last year, another DSP program — Workability IV, meant to prepare disabled students to find jobs and adjust to school — was discontinued after the campus could not provide additional funding to the program. It was later found to have been out of compliance with state regulations for years.

When our campus has a storied history of disabilities rights activism, it comes as a particular disappointment that DSP programs are consistently mismanaged or even cut. While the campus has skirted responsibility in the past because of inadequate state funding, this classic excuse does not apply to TRiO. The blame falls on the poorly run yet sufficiently funded program itself.

With such pervasive problems with DSP, the trust between administrators and students has been broken, and TRiO should do everything in its power to regain it. The program should be proactive to serve more students, raise awareness of resources and use its funding to promote events that entice students. But if students are alleging that they are not receiving such benefits from the program, then where exactly is this $300,902 going? Whom exactly does it benefit?

This revelation should serve as a wake-up call for TRiO and other campus services operating below expectations. They should work to prove they are compliant with federal regulations before the next audit — or else even the small number of students they do serve could lose what little help they receive.

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