UC Berkeley seems to be doing so many things right for its disabled students, on paper at least. Last year, the campus opened its long-awaited Disability Cultural Community Center. UC Berkeley is also one of the few institutions of higher education that offers a true Disability Studies program, albeit a minor. And finally, UC Berkeley's student-run newspaper, the Daily Californian, has had consistently high quality and prolific coverage of disability issues for many years, suggesting that disabled students are not invisible on campus.
However, in the one area that perhaps matters most -- the quality of support provided by the Disabled Students' Program (DSP), which is UC Berkeley's accessibility services office -- there is a consensus among students that UC Berkeley is failing. As one student perceptively writes in the Daily Californian, "UC Berkeley seems fully unaware of how ridiculous it looks when it brags about all of its DSP services all while denying its students access to services they need to be healthy and functioning students. I don’t need a speaker series — I need comprehensive care."
In the Daily Californian, a student writes that "By the time I got a meeting with an advisor from DSP to discuss accommodations — through the advocacy of a College of Letters and Sciences academic advisor — it was February of my second semester. I had navigated my first two rounds of enrollment, my first semester of classes and my first round of finals at UC Berkeley, all sans accommodations."
Because of poor communication and followup from DSP staff, and overall lack of support, many students give up on trying to obtain accommodations. The campus organization, Berkeley Disabled Students, has stated that “DSP has become adversarial to disabled students, rather than a safe source of support. Many students have reported to BDS feelings of being devalued, dehumanized, humiliated, retaliated against, and our disabilities impacted in harmful ways due to discrimination by DSP, faculty, and staff of U.C. Berkeley.”
A student tells us, "Throughout my time at UC Berkeley, I had a series of pretty serious medical issues. I had 3 major surgeries and battled new diagnosis, with the addition of things I am still working on getting diagnosed for. The hardest thing for me was I was doing really poorly in my classes as a result of my health… Quite frankly I didn’t know where to turn or get help, which ultimately resulted in me getting a lot of poor grades. Had I known how to work the system better and knew how to get help, I may have done better in college. Unfortunately it isn’t advertised or talked about."
Another student lists for us the problems on campus that they have had to deal with as a disabled student at UC Berkeley:
"-Issues getting to classes within 10 minutes
-Building entrances closed, resulting in having to go around. (Awful with a physical disability.)
-Constant switching of DSP advisors
-No community center
-Poor professor understanding"
UC Berkeley has long angered tribal nations with its handling of thousands of ancestral remains amassed during the university’s centurylong campaign of excavating Indigenous burial grounds.
More than three decades ago, Congress ordered museums, universities and government agencies that receive federal funding to publicly report any human remains in their collections that they believed to be Native American and then return them to tribal nations.
UC Berkeley has been slow to do so. The university estimates that it still holds the remains of 9,000 Indigenous people in the campus’ Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology — more than any other U.S. institution bound by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, according to a ProPublica analysis of federal data.