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Students feel disconnected from Learning Center

Assistant Dean of Students, Kevin Grant, talks about the services offered to disabled students. | Aaron Fooks/THE CHIMES

 

Senior sociology major student Lydia Rankin and applied linguistics graduate major student, Jacquelyn Patching rarely contact the Learning Center unless they absolutely need it.

While the Learning Center communicates with students who reach out, some students said they feel that their needs are not adequately met, leading them to stop seeking and utilizing the center’s services due to miscommunication with the staff.

Though Rankin has chronic depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, obsessive compulsive personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, Rankin said she keeps up with classes and homework with excellent grades. Rarely will Rankin tell her professors that she will need more time on assignments or miss class due to panic attacks.

Patching, a blind student, uses her cane to navigate through campus and get her to her classes. As a first year graduate student, Patching utilizes the Learning Center to help her scan her smaller text books so her scanning device can read it to her. With larger text books, the Biola Print Shop will take her book and scan it into PDF format so her scanner can read it for her.

UNDER-RESOURCED

Disabilities Services and Learning Assistant Services were integrated and became the Learning Center in 2006. Assistant dean of students Kevin Grant and director of the Learning Center Jennifer Roode oversee daily operations in the department and have been with the department since it was formed. Disabled students can send an application to the Learning Center for any assistance they may need. For the 2014-2015 year, there are 163 disabled students currently with the Learning Center.

“Once the student is signed up with us, the professors are notified, the accommodations are in place and everything is working,” Roode said.

The Learning Center not only accepts disabled students but also tutors other students. A total of 130 students have been registered to be tutored since fall 2014 according to the Learning Center while  Most disabled students such as Rankin and Patching agree that the Learning Center is severely understaffed.

“I think they’re almost under resourced for what they’ve been given charge with,” Patching said. “I guess I’m used to the idea of like, you only ask for help when you seriously, seriously, absolutely need it and so I try not to ask for help too often.”

INADEQUATE SUPPORT

A total of 30-40 students are hired at the Learning Center yearly, but they must be recommended by faculty. Hired students only work with disabled students to read test questions to them or write answers to exams if disabled students are unable to.

“Especially for disability services, students come in waves, with a large influx at beginning of year, then a lull, then midterms picks up again with proctoring then on the back end with finals week. Spring is the same pattern, but with slightly fewer,” Grant said.

Rankin said she no longer wishes to use Learning Center services besides allowing the department to contact her professors for her disability because of a conversation where Roode said Rankin should leave Biola.

“It was very much me feeling attacked… It was awkward, it was humiliating and it was painful and I straight up said I came here looking for support and encouragement,” Rankin said.

ADDRESSING THE SITUATION

Learning Center staff annually attend webinars and conferences to get up to date with advancements and work with students better. Roode said the Learning Center would never tell a student to permanently leave the university but take a leave for a semester in an extreme case.

“We may say you may want to consider a medical withdrawal for this semester and a lot of times the student a student feels a lot of relief at that option that’s actually a grace option for them...that’s an extreme case if a student is missing a lot of class,” Roode said.

After the conversation, Rankin said her original plan was to not speak with the Learning Center whatsoever. However, she finds that allowing her professors to know she is registered with the Learning Center is much more beneficial to her.

“My plan this semester was I have an idea. I’m going to go ahead and let them know at the beginning of the semester that I want them to message my professors to let them know I’m registered with them,” Rankin said.

 

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Reagan Rumsey

    After reading the Chimes online, I felt led to comment on my own experience with the Learning Center. I graduated from Biola in 2009. I have Cerebral Palsy and some learning disabilities. The Learning Center helped make my time at Biola a positive one. My first semester was within the first year of the Learning Center's existence. Both Kevin and Jen worked very hard to give me the tools I needed to be a successful student. I was also proactive in talking to my professors and the Learning Center about my needs. I found most professors, Kevin, and Jen to be very accommodating and helpful. I felt strongly that the responsibility fell on me, as the student, to advocate for myself. Looking back, I feel incredibly blessed that I went to a college who had people like Kevin and Jen to help support me. March 29, 2015

  2. Perplexed Alum

    As a Biola Alum, I am saddened to read these three articles that criticize and critique the learning center. After reading and re-reading these articles I am having trouble understanding the issue. Every problem that is mentioned is also then taken care of!(I.E. Student can't hear=student gets professor to wear a microphone). What saddens me is that I personally witnessed senior, Kelly Yang, driving around campus handing out papers to get her point across, but there is no mention in any of the articles that she has spoken to Jen or Kevin about these "issues." (Again, someone tell me what the issue is other than her not wanting to go to Biola?) To the three authors who wrote these articles, may I implore before you go strike up a campaign against two wonderful people who have done great work on this campus...ask the student if she has spoken to them herself. Implore people to be adults. Implore people to have difficult conversations. Implore people to advocate for themselves...this is what life is all about. Having the chimes tell your story for you is cowardly and childish. Jesus didn't stand on street corners to get his point across, he was in the trenches. If this girl truly desired change that is what she would do as well. April 4, 2015

  3. Lydia Rankin

    So, I must say that I believe that both the concerns put forth by Jacquelyn and I were very much misrepresented by this article. I am very thankful for what the Learning Center has been able to provide for us, but I also believe that there is room for improvement, just as with any organization or department that offers services of any kind. I am hoping that this article will be removed because my words are very much taken out of context. I am very much ashamed that my name is attached to this . . . April 15, 2015

  4. Kayla Nimigan

    Dear Perplexed Alum,
    Firstly I would like for you to know that the fm mic that April uses is her own device. Biola has not provided that for her, and while that is an accommodation that she has made for herself, we have not reached full accessibility on this campus.

    Secondly I would like to echo Lydia's voice in saying our intent was not to be ungrateful for the work of Jen and Kevin and it most certainly was not to strike up a campaign against them.

    Most of our concerns stem from the fact that the Learning Center is not as well equipped to serve the students entrusted to them as they could be. It's an unfair burden to put caring for over 100 students with vastly different disabilities/circumstances on the shoulders of two people.

    Also, after many hours of conversations with Kelly over the course of this semester I can assure you she has been in the trenches on behalf of not only herself but other students with disabilities throughout her time at Biola. These articles were birthed out of many a difficult, adult conversation and years of advocacy for herself and others. So it is concerning to me that after reading a series the judgement is then passed that she is acting cowardly and childish.

    One thing I have personally contemplated throughout this semester regarding our request that Biola make themselves socially and physically accessible to students with disabilities is the model I see in Jesus' ministry. Jesus never said, "Good enough." That definitely was not at the heart of what he said and did. It's difficult as students with disabilities (and for other minority groups) when we see systems/programs/policies that are supposed to be for us that are not actually meeting our needs, but the message we receive when we raise this concern is that we should be thankful we at least have something. That it is good enough. We are simply asking to be heard, for able-bodied individuals to join us in our struggles, and to have a voice in shaping the way in which we are served so that our disabilities don't have to stand as obstacles to us being "equipped to impact the world for our Lord Jesus Christ".

    Respectfully,
    Kayla M Nimigan April 30, 2015

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