Student alleges bias over major

by Angelica Martinez
Staff Writer

After a delayed process of conferences, the University of La Verne agreed to grant junior Adriana Salcedo her Spanish major, provided she completes all specified requirements for her major before graduation.

Salcedo, who is wheelchair-bound, confronted problems with school officials when she realized she had difficulty meeting the study abroad requirement for foreign language majors.

Facilities in foreign countries cannot ensure the accommodation of students who are in wheelchairs. It was because of this that Dr. Andrea Labinger, department chair of Modern Languages, advised Salcedo to declare a different major, Salcedo said.

Salcedo said she was “disappointed” to hear that. According to Salcedo, “one of the admissions counselors told me the University caters to the individual’s needs.”

Dr. Labinger declined to comment.

The major was not the only obstacle Salcedo forced. In addition to that, last year Salcedo requested to use large desks reserved for handicapped students during her classes.

She said she “didn’t have them until almost the end of the first semester.” Then, “the same thing happened second semester,” Salcedo said.

Salcedo was told if she had any problems, to tell school officials and the problem would be fixed.

“But for me that isn’t true,” she said.

Instead, she found she “wasn’t happy with what the University had done to solve the problem,” in regards to her major. “They gave me the runaround.”

After her attempts to solve the problem with school officials failed, Salcedo spoke with the California Department of Education, which referred her to its Office of Civil Rights.

According to Salcedo, she was told that “if the problem was not resolved before classes started, I should file a complaint,” she said. “The complaint was filed in August.”

Salcedo then met with Dr. William Cook, vice president of academic affairs; Art Stenmo, associate dean of enrollment services; and Dr. Labinger.

According to Salcedo, at the end of the meeting, Dr. Labinger decided that Salcedo needed to declare Hispanic Studies or a similar major – but not a Spanish major; that she, Salcedo, would have to study abroad in order to be able to declare Spanish as her official major.

“I was treated as an able bodied student that didn’t want to go, [to study abroad] when I have a physical impairment that doesn’t allow me to go,” said Salcedo.

The University Catalog for the 1997-98 school year states “Spanish majors must supplement their ULV language course with study abroad in a Spanish speaking country.”

By not attending study abroad, Salcedo recognizes she will need to complete those required units before she receives her degree in Spanish.

Instead, Salcedo said, “I plan on attending Scripps College and study Spanish there.”

However, Salcedo continued to research the problem to find a solution.

Although this situation “put a barrier in my studies,” Salcedo said she spoke with Dr. Peggy Redman, director of teacher education, shortly after she spoke at Convocation this year. Dr. Redman spoke of the school services and departments on campus.

Dr. Redman’s speech mentioned the University “would accommodate me for my goals,” said Salcedo.

According to Salcedo, Dr. Redman advised her to speak with Dr. John Gingrich, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Salcedo said she later met with Dr Gingrich, who “basically told me he would speak with Dr. Labinger” as well as other faculty “and I would be hearing a resolution to my problem,” said Salcedo.

According to Dr. Gingrich, “We need to look at exceptional cases when they come up,” However “it is fair to have departments set requirements” said Dr. Gingrich.

This situation, according to Dr. Gingrich, will not set a precedent for other students.

“Each case will need to be looked at individually,” said Dr. Gingrich. He said the University is “making good strides,” and wants “a balance between academic expectations and situations of students.”

Lynn Stanton-Riggs, director of learning enhancement services, who is in charge of disabilities services, said she had little to do with Salcedo’s case.

According to Stanton-Riggs, she is available to help students who are in similar situations. She is to “act as a liaison between students and administration,” said Stanton-Riggs.

The accommodations for handicapped students and students with learning disabilities are “an on-going concern,” said Stanton-Riggs.

Currently, the University has purchased and placed large adjustable leg tables with plaques that say “reserved for handicap,” said Stanton-Riggs.

However, Stanton-Riggs said “there is a sensitivity issue. It is best if students come to me rather than to the teacher. Then we will work things out.”

Salcedo is satisfied with the end result to her problem. She is “grateful to everyone” and “knows the University has little knowledge as to how to go about resolving issues such as these,” she says. But “it’s time to make the transition.”

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