Following concerns regarding accessibility and general internal dysfunction within the UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Senate and organization at large, President Gurleen Pabla issued an executive order on the accessibility of mandated A.S. trainings for 2022-23 members.
The order cancels all currently scheduled trainings and pushes the deadline for them to Nov. 13. It also forms a task force to address concerns regarding the accessibility of the trainings — mainly the lack of a text form for the trainings to accommodate those who are deaf/hard of hearing.
In her Oct. 2 email to the A.S. body, Pabla said several students in A.S. — including members of the Commission on Disability Equity (C.O.D.E.) — expressed concerns about training accessibility, prompting the decision to deliver the executive order.
“The current scheduling and inaccessibility of these trainings has created a level of crisis that this association has a duty to respond to,” Pabla said in the email. “The currently scheduled trainings are now canceled until further notice, and the deadline has been extended. I will ensure that you all have an adequate amount of time to fulfill these requirements by the weekend of week 7, while focusing on accessibility throughout the process.”
The executive order follows allegations of neglect that Internal Vice President Bee Schaefer — who chairs the Senate — faced from several A.S. members. Senators and A.S. members said Schaefer’s failure to perform the duties of her position resulted in internal dysfunction and funding issues for A.S. Boards, Commissions and Units.
In emails obtained by the Nexus from C.O.D.E. to Schaefer and other A.S. personnel, a member voiced concerns regarding training accessibility and Schaefer’s capability and interest in implementing reform.
The trainings include eight workshops on topics including reframing disability, sexual harassment and Title IX compliance, trans and queer 101, A.S. structure and policies, anti-blackness and intercultural awareness and communication strategies.
“I believe the simplest way to ensure accessibility would be to create the text-based trainings and plan out what will be discussed by speakers ahead of time. This would avoid placing the undue burden on disabled students to advocate for themselves,” the C.O.D.E. member said in the email. “We have seen this burden take a toll on disabled students time and time again, as with the recent DSP [Disabled Students Program] note taking controversy. I urge you not to perpetuate the culture of ableism at this university.”
Fourth-year statistics and data science major and C.O.D.E. co-chair Jay Shreedhar told the Nexus that C.O.D.E. has since met with Pabla to discuss the trainings to develop a more accessible format.
“The A.S. President is fully willing to work with C.O.D.E. to make the A.S. trainings more accessible for everyone. We’re still laying out the roadmap for how we’ll achieve this, but it’s a great development,” Shreedhar said in a statement to the Nexus. “While A.S. is far from perfect as it is, this is a big step toward improving the experience of being in A.S. for disabled people.”
Following Pabla’s executive order, Schaefer sent an email to the A.S. body, affirming the switch in training dates and addressing the issues of accessibility.
“I am a Disabled student and someone who knows firsthand the benefit of Access and Accommodations,” Schaefer said. “Because of this fact, I am going to take additional time to meet all disabled needs with the assistance and engagement of the Disabled Students Program and with the Office of the Vice Chancellor.”
Schaefer added that she has received “racism and slanderous attacks on my [her] character” as a result of allegations of negligence, and accused A.S. members and executives of spreading misinformation.
“These attacks have created a dangerous, hostile environment for me on campus, where my safety and wellbeing are jeopardized,” Schaefer said. “I do not appreciate the fact that due to misinformation generated and circulated by A.S. Members and Execs I have experienced threats to my life to the degree I am in danger and cannot access campus.”
Schaefer maintained, however, that she will remain in office for the duration of her term.
Ahead of the Senate’s Oct. 5 meeting, Schaefer announced in an email that the Senate will be held via Zoom webinar only due to an “overwhelming abundance of caution,” without an in-person component. Schaefer did not respond to Nexus inquiries on the reason behind the shift, and if it will continue for the rest of the year.
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Oct. 6, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.