Three days before the start of the fall semester, an assistant professor in the UofA Counselor Training and Supervision program emailed students enrolled in her fall classes advising them that she would not be able to. to teach the courses. Since then, outrage has grown among CESP students and faculty members who say Tameeka Hunter’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated when she was denied an application for Distance Learning.
“It is with grave disappointment that I share that I will not be able to teach this course in the fall semester of 2021,” Hunter said in his August 20 email. “I have a permanent disability and am not allowed to teach this course remotely as ADA accommodation. “
Hunter, who teaches in the rehabilitation counseling stream, told students and colleagues that she could not safely teach in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, so she withdrew from teaching after university administrators refused his request to teach at a distance.
Brent Williams, an associate professor of rehabilitation counselor training and supervision who worked closely with Hunter, said he was stunned and heartbroken when Hunter told him she had been denied a lodging.
“I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve worked in disability (for) 20, 25 years,” said Williams, who also has a disability. “I probably know as much about disability law as most people on this campus. This is what I do for a living. And as I said, however, I’m not a lawyer, it seemed like such a clear violation of the ADA, it was just incomprehensible.
The 1990 ADA requires employers to make “reasonable accommodation” to provide people with disabilities an equal opportunity to successfully perform their jobs.
University officials cannot comment on individual requests, but UofA “fully complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act with all accommodation requests,” Associate Vice Chancellor of University Relations Mark Rushing said in an email, speaking on behalf of Terry Martin, Acting President and Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs. As managers enter a process of working with employees requesting accommodations and attempting to accommodate all requests, not all accommodations requested are considered reasonable, Rushing said.
“Generally speaking, offering distance education as a reasonable accommodation for faculty would be a fundamental change in the university’s curriculum,” Rushing said in the email. “Teaching in person is an essential function of a faculty member’s job. “
Hannah Gliemann, a master’s student in rehabilitation counseling, said she liked the teacher replacing Hunter’s fall vocational rehabilitation class, but looked forward to the class with Hunter.
In the previous class she took with the professor, Gliemann said that Hunter spoke openly about living with cerebral palsy and the challenges she faced as a person with a disability. As a consulting student preparing for a career working with people with disabilities, this prospect was invaluable.
“To know more about his history and his experiences, it was amazing,” said Gliemann. “. And in this program, especially the rehabilitation component, that’s what we’re trying to do, is to help people with disabilities achieve their goals and be their guide and counselor.
Because cerebral palsy can restrict lung function, people with the congenital disorder are listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having a higher risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19 if infected, according to Cerebral Palsy. Alliance.
Williams said he was disappointed Hunter couldn’t teach this semester because he believes rehabilitation counseling students are missing out on a valuable educational opportunity.
“As someone who has faced marginalization and discrimination throughout her career, she brings an insight and expertise to life that, frankly, is unparalleled,” said Williams. “I mean, she just has an understanding that others don’t have, so for our students to be denied the opportunity to have her knowledge, expertise and experience is a real loss to them.”
Hunter said in an email that she was advised not to give an interview on the details of the current situation, but confirmed that she had a physical disability requiring a motorized wheelchair and had had a 17 year career in ADA compliance before joining AU faculty in 2020.
Heather Wood, a master’s student in rehabilitation counseling who previously took classes with Hunter, said she was so angry and hurt by Hunter’s situation that she considered leaving the program.
“I mean we stand up for the rights of people with disabilities, what are you doing? Said Bois. “And so that’s a really passionate thing and a lot of people are great, super angry. Personally, I have a disability, I live with a disability and (for) me I’m like ‘Okay, so what? Is my place if you’re gonna do this to my teacher? What are you gonna do to me? What, I don’t matter? “
Gliemann, Williams and Wood said they find the administration’s decision particularly disappointing because the rehabilitation counseling program involves teaching students to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.
“Obviously we’re in a field where we’re learning to work with people with disabilities,” Wood said, “so it’s pretty crazy, weird, crazy that one of our teachers who has a physical disability is going through discrimination. . “
Rushing said in an email that the university cares “deeply about our faculty, staff and students, especially those who may have disabilities,” but administrators must balance all of its responsibilities to students. and employees.
“Providing in-person education – with the exception of courses which are intentionally designed and designated as online courses, and which students deliberately choose on this basis – to our students is a fundamental aspect of how the University works,” said Rushing said.
Gliemann and Wood said they would be happy to continue taking Hunter’s distance education courses as they did in the spring and summer. Because the infrastructure for such courses already exists, it seems illogical not to use it to accommodate a faculty member with a disability, Wood said.
Gliemann, Williams and Wood have said they hope UA administrators reverse their decision on Hunter’s housing in the spring and come up with an apology or explanation. It is essential to send the message that teachers and students with disabilities are welcome at UofA, they said.
“It was kind of like last year … the university was trying to say ‘Oh, we want to make sure people know that we are for minorities,'” Gliemann said. “And that includes people with disabilities, you know? And I think they just need to step up their game a little bit because that seems like a step in the wrong direction, and they’re going to lose some great teachers like Dr. Hunter.