Campus shows disregard for students with disabilities

CAMPUS ISSUES: Discontinuing the Disabled Students’ Readiness Program on such short notice unfairly puts the burden of the budget on students with disabilities.

You would think that UC Berkeley would try to mitigate the pain brought to students by a mismanaged and strained budget. Instead, the sudden and unexpected cancellation of the Disabled Students’ Readiness Program sends a clear and direct message: Some of UC Berkeley’s most disadvantaged students will shoulder the burden of a financial crisis they did not cause.

DSRP, which serves 60 students with disabilities on campus, provides essential services such as employment help, personal finance lessons and professional interpersonal skills. For many students with disabilities, the program made attending UC Berkeley possible. One parent of a student in DSRP even said they chose UC Berkeley precisely because the program made education accessible to her child, who has autism.

DSRP survived through a state program known as WorkAbility IV that provided matched funds. But on Aug. 8, the program announced stricter regulations that meant the campus could no longer claim administrative salaries or other indirect costs toward those matched funds.

And what would it have taken to keep the program afloat? According to the SF Chronicle, UC Berkeley would have had to commit $209,000 in staff time to receive more than $300,000 from the state. A paltry $209,000 at an institution that spent more than $270,000 to try to improve its chancellor’s “strategic profile.”

So instead of scrounging up the money to keep the program afloat, the campus cut it, leaving the 60 students who benefit from its services — and two employees — either out of a navigable education or out of a job.

And given its failure to these students, the least the campus could have done was provide an early warning. Why did it take until Sept. 1 to notify the program’s students that DSRP would be canceled, even though officials knew about the funding change Aug. 8?

Granted, the state’s announcement of the changes just mere weeks before the start of term put the campus in a tough spot, and the state agency responsible, the Department of Rehabilitation, should have provided the campus with more time to find the funds necessary to keep the program alive.

But campus officials can’t control state agencies. They can, however, control their own actions.

Now students are left midsemester to grapple with independent life, stripped of resources once promised to them.

What’s more, of the 12 schools statewide that offer this program, UC Berkeley is the only one cutting it amid new regulations. So much for the “birthplace of the disability rights movement.”

If the campus wants its reputation as an inclusive and welcoming environment to be more than a pathetic joke, it can’t hide behind budgetary woes. Students’ access to education is at stake, and once again, the campus has flubbed.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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