Student Government Association senators are working toward a proposal that would add 14 new positions to Student Disability Services to combat staffing problems within the administration.
“We’ve gotten so much support from so many people,” said Mount Pleasant senior and SGA Sen. Michaela Mack. “I feel like every day, more and more people from SGA are joining on.”
Mack and her roommate, Mount Pleasant senior and SGA Sen. Carrie Cloutier, are leading the charge to put more workers in the Student Disabilities Services office to serve two functions. The first is an advocacy group that can intervene on the student’s behalf to professors and other faculty when the student is experiencing problems.
The second group would be a peer-to-peer support group made up of volunteer students, as well as other students with disabilities. Their role would be to provide mentoring, support and monitoring how a student is able to manage their disability throughout the year.
“Even with 14 more positions brought in, that’s a ratio of 17 staff to 703 students with disabilities,” Mack said. “So that’s around 41 students per administrator. Grand Valley State University is 17 to one, so while we’re still not great, it’s better.”
GVSU served as a model for the senators, as it offers some of the best student disability services of schools relative in size to CMU, according to Cloutier.
The main problem separating GVSU from CMU is the size of the disabled student population. While GVSU only has to contend with around 100 students, CMU has slightly more than 700.
“On average, the number of students with disabilities grows between 13 and 20 percent,” said Student Disability Services Director Susie Rood. “Last semester, we had 613. This went up about 100 students, and our numbers keep increasing year to year.”
With a small staff catering to this group, not all of the problems students have are able to receive the attention they warrant.
Mack said SDS is fully on-board with their resolution, and has cooperated to get the staffing they need.
“If we had more staff and more space could we do more things? Yes,” Rood said. “Could we be more responsive and more proactive? Yes. Right now we are addressing whatever we can.”
Cloutier, who is dyslexic, conceived the project after experiencing some of the challenges students with disabilities face at CMU firsthand. She and Mack are researching and building their case with help from other members of the SGA.
Mack and Cloutier are still in the early stages, looking to gather enough information to make a strong argument. They said the next step is to send out surveys through SDS to asses the extent of student dissatisfaction.
“The only thing we can think to pitch this is the enrollment issue,” Mack said. “If we get a stellar disability services office on campus, we’re going to get floods of students. But, if CMU is against having those kind of students here, we don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Time has been an issue for the senators, as they will graduate this December.
“I’m a firm believer that when things are supposed to happen, everything will fall into place and so far we haven’t had any problems,” Mack said. “I don’t have any doubts that we’ll be able to get something done.”