Student Disability Resource Center to Open in Fall, Director Chosen

The Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) is scheduled to open at the Tranquada Student Services Center next fall. With its first director, Tammy Tucker Green, set to come to the Claremont Colleges in March, the center will soon offer unified resources for students with disabilities at the colleges. 

However, the center will not be available to Pitzer College students, according to Denise Hayes, the vice president for student affairs at the Claremont University Consortium. 

Instead, an additional full-time staff member will coordinate services for Pitzer students with disabilities, according to Jill Hawthorne, associate dean of students at Pitzer.

“This provides us with the needed support right away—and right here on campus," Hawthorne wrote in an email to TSL. "We are in our first year of having this additional position.”

According to Maddy Ruvolo SC '15, who self-identifies as a disabled student, there is some confusion about why Pitzer is not participating. 

“Pitzer’s statement is, ‘We believe our students can be served better with our own resources,’” Ruvolo said. “I think for a long time people didn’t realize that Pitzer wasn’t going to be involved. Now some of them are trying to figure out why that happened and what they can do about it.”

Sage Lachman PZ '16, who is Disability, Illness, and Difference Alliance (DIDA) co-chair and a Pitzer liaison, expressed disappointment that Pitzer will not be involved in the SDRC.

"I feel really upset that Pitzer does not seem to want to support and encourage a disabilities community at the Claremont Colleges," Lachman said. "We need the SDRC."

For the rest of the colleges, the SDRC will alleviate some of the responsibility that was previously in the hands of each school, according to Miriam Felblum, Pomona College’s vice president and dean of students. 

The idea of building a centralized disability resource center began with a discussion between the disability coordinators at the Claremont Colleges, who will retain their positions once the center is open, Feldblum said.

Hayes wrote in an email to TSL that the schools' coordinators wanted to streamline the disability resources available to students, which are currently provided separately by each of the seven schools.

“[There are] inconsistencies and redundancies among the colleges in terms of available resources and processes for students requesting accommodations,” she wrote. 

In response, the coordinators hired consultants from the Association of Higher Education and Disability to assess how disability services could be improved. According to Hayes, the consultants recommended that the consortium build a centralized center that will focus on creating standard processes; increasing online resources for faculty members, staff members, and students; and moving the colleges to a proactive rather than reactive approach to supporting students.

“The purpose of having this center is to provide more centralized and efficient accommodations for students with disabilities at the 5Cs,” said Kyra Sweeney PO ’16, a student on the search committee that selected the director. 

Green, the center's inaugural director, has worked in learning support and student disability services for 15 years at schools including Cal Poly Pomona, the University of Southern California, La Sierra University, and the medical school at the University of California, Riverside. 

“Students who are physically challenged have different needs," Hayes wrote. "Ms green [sic] will work with students to understand how they can be supported, she will work with each of the participating campuses to develop strategies to enhance services, increase awareness and identify technology and assistive equipment to improve students’ experiences at the Claremont Colleges." 

In addition to providing resources for academic support, the SDRC will provide a space for students who identify as disabled.

The center is “a safe space for students of disabilities, kind of like the Queer Resource Center or the Asian American Resource Center, to develop our identities as disabled people, and to spread awareness about disability culture and being an ally,” Sweeney said.

Shelby Wax contributed reporting to this article.