UMBC has long prided itself on its diversity and inclusionary nature. The campus is a welcoming place for students from all creeds and cultures, and it is difficult to exist here without gaining the understanding of another individual’s reality.
With that being said, it is interesting that UMBC has chosen to terminate the SUCCESS program. SUCCESS is a unique opportunity for developmentally disabled adults to take college courses designed for them, to promote their independence, and to increase their chances for future job prospects. The program also allows these students to socially engage with their peers and experience college by themselves.
With SUCCESS being one of the first incarnations of a program of its kind in the country, this is a milestone for both education and the rights of developmentally disabled people in the US. Therefore, it is strange that the faculty of UMBC decided to take no interest in the program’s first graduating class.
President Hrabowski did not attend the graduation event, despite being a national leader in education innovation. In addition, the students were almost not able to walk the stage in a traditional cap and gown because the university attempted to make the damaging and insulting argument that the students were not receiving a full bachelors degree, and therefore did not deserve proper recognition.
The administration at UMBC has long shown a pattern of neglect, abandonment, and negligence towards the students within the SUCCESS program. On one such occasion, when the students were instructed to make posters representing why they loved UMBC and the SUCCESS program, those posters were barred from being hung up on campus without just explanation.
Unfortunately, the despicable and inhumane way that UMBC has treated its SUCCESS students is representative of a larger problem of discrimination towards developmentally disabled people in western culture.
As Klaire Williams, a senior majoring in psychology and former SUCCESS teacher articulates, “Adults with intellectual disabilities are not going to start rioting – this population needs more people to fight for them. When you look at any group in this country’s history that has overcome discrimination they’ve done so by advocating for themselves. My personal opinion is that the university is not profiting off of them, and I don’t think they will make them a priority because of that. The root is that UMBC is discriminating against them: I don’t see intellectual disability diversity here, and that’s a fundamental flaw in our system.”
It is perceived that this faction of people cannot fight back. As a result, it is seemingly acceptable for the administration to give up on them instead of dealing with the issues at the root of the problem.
UMBC’s response to the SUCCESS program is not only disgraceful, but overtly discriminatory. The administration has made the conscious decision to give up on their own students, instead of attempting to iron out flaws in the program that they designed. This, in context of a university like UMBC, is unacceptable and must be accounted for.