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.
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.”
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.