Several Scripps College students report that requests for assistance with academic accessibility accommodations have not been met since the summer, forcing them to advocate for themselves independently.
Some students requesting help with accommodations have sent multiple emails to Academic Resources and Services (ARS) staff, failing to receive any response after weeks or months of waiting.
“It’s been pretty bad,” Aidan Trulove SC ’24 said. “So far, I haven’t been able to get a response from anyone in the ARS at Scripps. I’ve sent at least three emails and just [got] nothing.”
Trulove has sent emails as far back as August but has yet to receive a response. Between her job, five classes and main role in a theater production, Trulove said that going to the office in person is not feasible, so she relies on communicating with ARS via email.
For many students, their primary contact in ARS has been Bianca Vinci, assistant director of student accessibility services; however, she has been out of the office since at least August.
Emails sent to ARS are greeted with an auto-reply saying, “due to high volume of contact and unforeseen circumstances, please allow 72 hours to receive a response from our office.”
“As a result of staff transitions, ARS has been short-staffed and may not have been able to respond to inquiries within our preferred window,” Danny Hernandez, assistant dean for academic resources and accessibility services, said in a statement to TSL.
Some students have taken their accommodations into their own hands, working directly with their professors to meet their academic needs.
“There has been very little communication from the office in general, so I think it would be a waste of my time to try and get my needs met,” Soleil Laurin SC ’24 said. “I’ve just been explaining the situation to my professors, and so far, they’ve been understanding.”
While Bella Guizler Bonilla SC ’26 did not have issues receiving her housing accommodations this past summer, the same was not true when it came to her academic accommodations.
“I submitted all the information about my hearing aids and told them the microphone they needed to order. I gave them everything they needed, but they somehow messed it up and ordered me the wrong [microphone],” Guizler Bonilla said. “It got here in the middle of September, and it was the wrong one.”
Now, seven weeks into classes, her correct microphone has still not arrived, but she is making do with the one provided by Scripps.
“[The microphone] is the most important accommodation I have,” she said. “That is what I use for class. And I was without that for a few weeks, which really sucked … Being a first year, trying to get the lay of the land and then having to deal with [accommodations] on top of it was really stressful.”
Managing without her full accommodations has been complicated by ARS’s lack of timely responses.
“The only reason [the staff] has been getting back to me is because I show up to the office. I physically have to be there, and not everyone has the time for that,” Guizler Bonilla said.
Guizler Bonilla has also worked directly with her professors, who she said have helped fill a void left by ARS.
“Seriously, bless them all. I love my teachers,” Guizler Bonilla said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if I didn’t have such supportive professors.”
However, Hernandez cautioned against acquiring accommodations informally through professors.
“Due to legal implications, accessibility and consistency, it is important that all accommodations be done through the Office of Academic Resources and Services,” Hernandez said. “An accommodation is not formalized or deemed official until this occurs.”
Hernandez explained that ARS already sent out 709 accommodations letters to professors and staff this year on behalf of 235 students, which he said covers the majority of students registered with accommodations.
“During the second week of the semester, ARS sent a comprehensive email outlining and providing links and resources to students who were, at any point, registered with our office, including guidance on how to coordinate accommodations,” he said.
In the email, students with questions were encouraged to book a meeting with Hernandez via Calendly, which offered times between 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Trulove said the email was “completely unhelpful.”
“It didn’t really address any actual concerns that students have with ARS,” Trulove said. “… ARS can claim to provide students with its services all it wants in an email, but until they actually start getting stuff done, words alone can never be enough.”
ARS also transitioned to a new AIM portal this year to be in sync with the other Claremont Colleges, which use the same platform for managing accommodations.
Unlike the other 7Cs, the Scripps portal is not currently listed on the The Claremont Colleges Services’ website. Instead, students with registered accommodations were sent an email with a link.
Laurin found using the portal challenging, especially without a walkthrough provided by ARS.
“I feel even more marginalized by these changes, and disabled students deserve better,” Laurin said. “We have to jump through enough hoops as it is in our daily life, and the institutions that are supposed to support us are making our lives more complicated. I see this as disrespectful and ignorant to the needs of students.”
When the portal sent Trulove’s accommodations to her professors, it lacked specificity.
“This year, they said my accommodations were “distraction-free testing” and “other,” without describing what the “other” was at all,” Trulove said. “Meaning my professors didn’t know about the like five other accommodations I have to have in order to function at all in class.”
The “other” category could not be edited in the portal, and without an email response from ARS about this issue, Trulove had to discuss her needs with her professors to arrive at a solution.
While ARS did not help students navigate the portal this year, Hernandez said plans are in the works for future assistance.
“We do agree that there are several aspects of the AIM portal that may not be as intuitive or user-friendly,” Hernandez said. “As we continue to learn how to improve utilizing the portal, we have a plan to provide more guidance and tools to help students navigate AIM.”
With more staff being hired, Hernandez hopes that the responsiveness of ARS will improve.
“ARS is in the process of onboarding new staff members to support our office and student needs,” Hernandez said. “We hope to continue to strive to respond to students within this timely manner.”