Students Push for Disability Honor Society at UCSD

CampusNews

Logo for DAPI
Photo by Ally Lawler, Logo courtesy of Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society

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Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society (DAPi) was introduced at UC San Diego in September of 2020 by graduate researcher Marina Nakhla and faculty member Adam Fields. While it has not been formally established yet, once it has been it will become the first society for students with disabilities at UC San Diego.

DAPi has 168 established chapters nationwide, though the only UC campuses that have active chapters are UC Irvine and UC Riverside. According to their constitution, the purpose of DAPi is to recognize the academic accomplishments of students with disabilities, to facilitate the development of leadership and advocacy skills, and encourage members to become mentors and role models.

Nakhla and Fields are also both members of the Diversity Committee and Disability Subcommittee at UCSD’s Department of Psychiatry.

Marina Nakhla told The Triton they would like to provide opportunities for peer mentorship support and networking, create student advocates and ensure that the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) follows through with all approved accommodations for students. She would also like to involve other departments and more faculty members to include disability to be part of diversity training.

Andres Nevarez, a graduate student in the Biology department and forthcoming members of DAPi at UCSD told The Triton he “felt very isolated and did not have a way to connect with other students with disabilities.” This organization will allow them to “get involved in outreach” and “start grassroots movements that focus on the needs of students with disabilities.”

While DAPi would help bring light to the resources available on campus and highlight the gaps in training when providing accommodation, joining an honor society can be time consuming and financially challenging, which Nakhla recognizes.

“We are worried that DAPi may be seen as a financial burden to potential students who might want to join, and it may be difficult to go through the paperwork and processes. Most importantly, we are worried that DAPi may not be seen as highly as other honor societies, further increasing the stigma to joining”, Nakhla states.

UCSD has been widely criticized for its treatment of students with disabilities. In 2017 a campus climate survey found that 30 percent of undergraduate students with disabilities had seriously considered leaving UCSD. The same year, students petitioned for a Disability Resource Center to no avail.

Nakhla believes UCSD could be more inclusive by having laboratories organized in a more accessible way and the creation of an office that accommodates all disabilities. She highlighted that students are required to pay for their own diagnostic evaluations to justify accommodations, which can be up to $1,000. If students with visual impairment need to convert a textbook that is not available online, they need to buy a new one, and even though there are mobility services available, the UC San Diego campus is not always physically accessible and these services are not always easy to access.

Many faculty and staff also depend on OSD for issues raised by students with disabilities, which can exclude some students, especially those that are also in racial or ethnic minorities, says Nakhla.

The Disability Student Alliance and the formation of DAPi are only two of the organizations that students with disabilities have implemented on campus in order to advocate for better treatment from OSD and UC San Diego.

In order to complete the formation of DAPi at UCSD, the next steps include registering it as a club on UCSD’s website and contacting DAPi’s National Office. Fields has received the official charter certificate from DAPI’s national office and is currently waiting on the materials for the inaugural ceremony.

Other members who are advocating for and have contributed to this proposal of forming DAPi alongside Nakhla and Nevarez includes Andres Nevarez, Brigitte Guzzman, Carmen Aguilar, Charul Sharma, David Hickman, Donovan Cronkhite, Emily Nguyen, Grace Carlson, Jody Iwamoto, Pei-chi Yang, Sarah Davis, Shakur Collins, Syreeta Nolan, Taylor Getz, and Kashish Nizami.

The Triton reached out for a comment from the Office of Student Disabilities (OSD) but have received no response.

Vanessa Gaeta-Munoz is a staff writer for The Triton.You can follow her @_vnssg.