We, the Disabled Student Union, the Mother Organizations Coalition, and Undergraduate Students Association Council at UCLA, urge UCLA to immediately and permanently implement remote learning options that allow students to access their education both in person and remotely.
Black students and other students of color have been silenced by administration for decades, and have had their demands for equitable education ignored. Since August, the Disabled Student Union has openly advocated for remote learning options to be made available to any student who may need it. Even after remote learning last year, UCLA administration continued to tell student advocates that these options would be too difficult and expensive to implement. Even if this were true — and the temporary current plans for remote access indicate otherwise — such factors do not excuse an inaccessible education that violates our civil rights. Time and financial constraints disappear only when our non-disabled peers are impacted. As of this publication, our petition has garnered nearly 30,000 signatures – three-quarters of the student body – in support of access to remote education. We have received hundreds of testimonies and comments of support from the Bruin community. Despite this staggering display of support, UCLA refuses to implement remote learning options, thereby continuing to harm and ignore the University community.
We are not asking for remote-only instruction. It is important to note that some students, especially those in performance-based academic programs, benefit from in-person learning. Thus, hybrid learning is the only way to truly meet the needs of as many students, staff, and faculty as possible. We are advocating for giving students and employees the agency and choice in their education (which students pay for) to attend classes remotely if they deem it unsafe to attend in person. Forcing in-person instruction also vastly increases the likelihood of a campus services worker coming into contact with an infected person. Whether due to personal circumstances or in order to maintain the health and safety of their loved ones, UCLA students and workers deserve to have a choice in the fate of their health.
Hybrid learning would allow high-risk people to learn or teach without endangering themselves and others. The administration may argue that the accommodations system addresses this need. In reality, many students and faculty cannot access accommodations due to medical discrimination, prohibitive costs, or administrative burden. Additionally, students and workers are often undiagnosed or have conditions that are not recognized as high-risk by the CDC. Others are caretakers of high-risk family, but UCLA explicitly disallows accommodations for caretakers; this prevents parenting students and instructors from making the best decisions for their health. Commuter students without access to a car can learn from home if they feel unsafe taking public transit. No one should have to choose between their safety and their education or career. Remote access is the only way to ensure we can learn and work in safe conditions.
Public health experts and disability rights advocates have repeatedly warned that the pandemic has worsened in part due to a premature “return to normal.” Studies show that non-pharmacological measures — like remote learning options — are most effective at containment. Vaccines are useful for reducing spread and keeping people out of hospitals and morgues; they are not to be used as a main intervention, especially in congregate settings like universities. This is especially true in light of decreased effectiveness of vaccine and antibody treatment against the omicron variant, the wide variation in vaccination dates among Bruins, and a lack of plans for vaccinated people who test positive. Good public health decisions are made to be proactive, not retroactive.
How many people will UCLA maim or kill to maintain a false sense of normalcy?
The Mother Organizations Coalition signed onto this campaign and co-organized this event both in solidarity and shared struggle. Black students with disabilities, and other students of color with disabilities, doubly face barriers in securing accommodations due to medical bias and prohibitive costs. This creates an inherent racial disparity in access to education and staying healthy: Medical racism means that students, workers, and instructors of color are much likelier than their white peers to die or face serious complications from Covid-19. Denying remote access has a significant cost; we want remote options. If we are not able to attend a class in-person as an immunocompromised person, if we test positive, or we are taking care of at-risk family members, we don’t want to – nor should we have to – drop a class, take a leave of absence, or drop out.
But this news is not new; UCLA administration has consistently ignored the demands and needs of students of color over the years. Specifically, the Mother Organizations Coalition is advocating for widespread institutional change concerning the Community Programs Office, an office under the department of Student Affairs that houses student-initiated educational programs for marginalized students. Over the years, the Mother Organizations Coalition has raised concerns including the deliberate mismanagement of over $2 million in student fees as well as the creation of a hostile and toxic work environment through gaslighting, emotional and mental manipulation, and obstruction of transparency of university policy and budgets. Together, the Disabled Student Union and the Mother Organizations Coalition are demonstrating in solidarity to call attention to UCLA’s blatant disregard for marginalized students on multiple fronts.
In order to prevent future outbreaks, protect marginalized students and workers, and provide a more sustainable model for our education, UCLA must immediately and permanently implement remote access options.
We ask UCLA: what is the point of being #1 if you won’t keep us safe?
How you can support us from outside UCLA
Make a stink on social media and via email – let these institutions know that the public sees their negligence, and that they will be held accountable. Tweet, email, comment, use telepathy to let UCLA and other University administrators know that we are not alone.
- Flood some inboxes! Emails to UCLA administrators make it harder to ignore our demands. If you can only send one, make sure it’s to email@example.com. For email templates and a more extensive list of email addresses, visit our action document. We encourage you to write your own email (or spice up the template) if you can, as it does make a bigger impact, but we are so grateful for every email.
- Spam the socials! Tell UCLA how disappointed you are in their choices, their greed, their scientific illiteracy—there’s a lot to choose from. Make your anger loud! If you’re old-school, take it to Facebook and fill up their feeds. Touch on the main points of this document, share your own story, or focus on what speaks to you.
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Email department chairs and professors at your university or college to request comprehensive hybrid options within the department that ensure students who take remote classes can progress to their degree at the same rate as their in-person peers. If you are not a student or university worker, make these demands of your workplace (if you have the safety of a union).
- Join a union – advocate for adequate protections in the workplace for all. While anti-discrimination laws are supposed to protect marginalized groups, these laws are often skirted without much challenge.
- Connect with local disability justice organizations: Whether it’s a disabled student network at your college or a nonprofit in your city, joining an organization is one of the best ways to make a difference and protect us all.
- Encourage your friends and family to limit unnecessary outings, get vaccinated if they can, and to wear a mask literally everywhere. Covid is airborne!