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Wednesday, Dec 1, 2021

Opinion: Our Access & Accommodations office is not helping students

Graphic from Wikimedia Commons
Graphic from Wikimedia Commons

This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.

College is already a very difficult time in people’s lives. We are struggling in pretty much every facet. We don’t sleep, we don’t eat — I’m not sure the last time I even saw a vegetable — and we unfortunately can’t really do much to change that. However, some people need extra help while in college, and if they collaborate with the Office of Access and Accommodations, they are able to go into class knowing they won’t be at a disadvantage because of their specific needs.

That should be the case, at least.

Here at Mercer, things happen a little differently. Someone I am very close with went through the entire process to get accommodations for her disability. She turned her papers in and made plans to live off-campus at a doctor’s request. However, she never heard back from the office.

I am not going to use her real name, because I’m scared of HIPAA laws, but I will call her Anna.

Anna had all of her plans set to live off-campus for the 2019-2020 school year, and she awaited a response from the accommodations office officially releasing her from her housing contract. It never came. She emailed the accommodations office several times over the course of a month. Finally, she asked very bluntly how far along the processing stage she was.

Anna waited over a week after sending the last email before she received a response saying they had never received her paperwork.

Anna went to the office for in-class accommodations in late January. She emailed Coordinator Katie Johnson on Jan. 18, and they met on Jan. 23. The accommodations request was sent in for review, but it wasn’t approved until March 25. Anna and Johnson then had to meet again for a final approval. Anna’s accommodations didn’t come into effect until April 2. That is an entire semester of classes that Anna had to take without her needs being met in the classroom. 

I am not saying that the Access and Accommodations Office is actively malicious toward students. I am saying that they aren’t doing their jobs, for whatever reason. Anna is just one person I know who has had major issues with accessibility on campus.

I would normally say “maybe they never got her paperwork,” but Anna and the doctor sent it at least three times, and they confirmed that they received it after the third time.

I would normally say “surely they just didn’t see her email,” but Anna emailed them more than once.

I would normally say “there must be an explanation for this,” but there is only one that comes to mind: gross incompetence.

If Mercer wants to continue marketing itself as one of the greatest schools in the country, it is going to have to get better about meeting the needs of its students.


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