Dal drops Learning Disabilities Support specialist
Torey Ellis, Staff Contributor
The effects of next year’s provincial funding cuts to universities have become real with the loss of Learning Disabilities Support specialist Neera Datta. Datta’s contract is expiring this year and will not be renewed.
Leeanne Smith, a third-year Dal student who has used Counselling Services since last summer, is outraged with the decision.
“This is absurd,” she says in an email. “She is the only actual support for students with learning disabilities on campus. She is in very high demand already and works incredibly hard to help her students navigate the messy bureaucracy that makes it difficult to receive supports.”
Datta is the only person listed on the Counselling Services website who works with students with learning disabilities. Smith says the main function of Datta’s position is to help these students get the assessment they need.
Smith, who has anxiety, ADHD and Asberger-related symptoms, is organizing a lobby against the decision and has brought the subject up at a DSU Council meeting. She hopes other students will join her cause.
“My disability makes it harder for me to stay on track and articulate the important
parts of this story, which makes it harder for this story to be heard, and easier for people like (Bonnie) Neuman, who have stakes in keeping this story quiet, to make sure it stays that way,” she says.
Bonnie Neuman is the vice president of Student Services and the one responsible for the decision. She has banned media access to the department, including access to Datta herself.
Neuman refused to comment. Her assistant says she will be holding a Round Table discussion on March 29, where she will explain the reasoning behind the decision.
Next year’s budget makes it obvious what the problem is. The university needs to cut funding by 6.5 per cent to avoid going into debt.
The budget mentions that student assistance programs are usually protected from these kinds of cuts, as this “area is protected by policy.”
Smith says that she is more concerned about incoming students than for herself. She has already received most of the aid, such as assessments for access to the loans that she needs.
“I’m concerned about the people next year, who are in my shoes. They will fall through the cracks,” she says.
Smith said that most universities don’t supply the kind of learning disabilities support that Dal does.
She wonders if the increased number of students being accepted every year affects the number of students being admitted with undiagnosed learning disabilities.
“If you had mediocre grades in high school, it might have been related to a learning disability that was never diagnosed,” she says.
She also wants to know where the extra money is going, if Dal is accepting more students than ever, which the 2011-2012 preliminary budget is counting on.
However, the budget also says that even if enrolment increases more than expected, it won’t stop the shortfall that the decreased government grants are causing.
More information will be available after the meeting on March 29.