If it’s broke, fix it.
Six months ago, the U.S. Department of Justice found that educational videos posted online by UC Berkeley did not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The campus estimated the total cost of adding captions to its videos at $1 million.
UC Berkeley faced two options — either fixing the videos and making them accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, or deleting them entirely and making them accessible to nobody. They chose the option that took the least effort. Next week, 20,000 course videos will be deleted, and from now on, only enrolled students will have access.
The campus was not required to improve accessibility to the videos if it would result in “undue financial and administrative burdens.” Instead, the campus conceded the cost was neither a burden nor worth the effort to meet.
Even in a time characterized by budget cuts and balancing debts, this was the wrong corner to cut, the lowest-hanging fruit. Apparently, the campus decided there were bigger problems at hand — the chancellor’s public image ($270,000) or the lack of napping ($104,000), perhaps.
While these funds were allocated under different restrictions and for different purposes, a clear pattern emerges: The campus can find money for its priorities, especially when it has at least six months to do so.
Instead, these videos fell under another equally disappointing pattern of this campus — it sweeps so-called trivialities under the rug — recently exemplified by the near-dissolution of the College of Chemistry and the public health major. The school has made financial decisions at the cost of educational quality. In both of those aforementioned incidents, students vocalized their displeasure, went out to protest in the rain and eventually prevented campus plans from coming to fruition.
The entire process behind this latest decision reeks of a dire lack of transparency. The community has little idea how the campus reached this decision, where the $1 million figure came from or whether the campus considered other options beforehand — perhaps asking for volunteers, tasking its own Educational Technology Services to help or even adding a small fee for students. Instead, the campus came to its own conclusion that these videos were better off in oblivion.
The idea of limiting education to avoid paying a reasonable cost is antithetical to the concept of public higher education, especially at the birthplace of the Disability Rights Movement. The videos are valuable resources to people who seek an education but might not have access to one.
The campus has conflated erasing a problem with solving it.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.