Campus Ableism in the time of COVID-19

How Hamline’s Plan is leaving disabled students behind

Emily Brown, Senior Columnist

The start of the school year is always stressful. We have to give up our late nights, hours of free time, and the luxury of not constantly having to check our emails. But, with COVID-19, the stress of a new school year has gone way up for students and staff.

Over the summer, our inboxes were flooded with emails of what will happen in the fall and what we should do. I must’ve gotten up towards the end of 50 emails and a few red flags stood out to me.One of them was the lack of mention of plans for disabled students and people who are at high risk for COVID-19.

President Fayneese Miller sent out an email in early July saying all classes will be on campus and they were working with the Mayo clinic and University of Minnesota to make sure they are setting up testing for students on campus. There was no mention of what will happen if there was a positive case on campus or what they were doing to help disabled or high risk students.

At first, this may seem like a minor oversight. I have no doubt that Hamline’s administration is very overwhelmed right now with keeping all the plates spinning. As a disabled student, I am fully aware that the disability plate often gets dropped, much to the dismay of the disabled community.

The disabled community is the largest minority community and our voices are rarely heard or lifted up. 2020 marks the 30 year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Acts being passed through congress, but a lot of stuff still slips through the cracks.

Even the idea of opening the university is ableist. Having classes on campus is telling high risk students that our health comes second to making sure that students have a ‘normal’ college experience. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Nothing about this time is normal. People are dying and it is unsafe to even be out in public without a mask on. I still want to continue my education during this pandemic, but we are no longer in the times when we could scoot our desks close to our best friend’s and quietly joke around.

When I got the email that campus was opening up, I had a panic attack. Thank god for the group chat with my two best friends and my mom’s sympathetic words. Like I said before, the email outlined campus COVID-19 testing and said that masks will be mandated on campus, which is very important, but nothing in the email talks about what they were going to do for disabled or high risk students. The emails kept coming and there was no information on it.

I finally reached out to my advisor and with the help with my mom, all three of us decided that I was going to stay home for all my classes. I do not go on campus at all and I have only been out in a public place less than ten times since March and the majority of those times were for necessity.

I am registered with Disability Services and no one has reached out to me. I had to email people and be on the ball about everything. I understand that Hamline is super busy and I’m not asking everything to be wrapped up in a neat little bow. What I am asking for is at least some support. All I ask is an email or two to get the ball rolling.

Disabled people are always stressed and exhausted and we are even more so with the pandemic. We don’t want everything handed to us or any special treatment. We just want to be safe.

If there was ever a time to focus on disabled people and our rights, it’s right now.