The second Beneficence Dialogue of this semester met in the forum room of the L.A. Pittenger Student Center March 1.

There, students sat at round tables to discuss disability awareness on campus and wrote their ideas down on sheets of white butcher paper. Later, those papers will be looked over by administrators on Ball State’s council on diversity and inclusion.

Lizzie Ford, member of the Alliance for Disability Awareness and the council, helped plan this Beneficence Dialogue in hopes that talking about disabilities would continue even after the event ends.

Final Beneficence Dialogue

Topic: Diversity in the classroom

When: 5 p.m., March 29

Where: L.A. Pittenger Student Center forum room

“My number one hope is just honestly that the results of having this dialogue will encourage students to talk more about disability, if nothing else,” Ford said. “It would be so great if even more changes could happen, but at the very least, I feel like this dialogue will be effective in getting students to say ‘It’s OK to talk out in the open about my disability or what I’ve experienced or seen with disability.’”

To junior telecommunications major Isaac Spillman, the Beneficence Dialogue exceeded his expectations in its ability to facilitate discussion.

“I thought it would be a lot more like, there would be one main speaker up front and then we from the audience would get to make comments,” Spillman said. “That’s what I envisioned it being, and so I was surprised when it was a group of five of us and an administrator talking about stuff intimately.”

Near the end of the dialogue, each of the five tables reported points of discussion from their hour together. These ranged from encouraging student leaders to be cognizant of accessibility of events they organize to encouraging departments to hire more staff with disabilities.

One point, though, drew an “a-ha” reaction from the room.

“The thing I think that stood out to us is, we spoke about pop quizzes in classes, and when you need testing accommodations, it’s not really something that should happen,” associate vice president for student affairs and enrollment services Ro Anne Royer Engle said.

Miracle Akins, a sophomore respiratory therapy major, sat at Engle’s table while they discussed the problem with impromptu testing in classrooms.

“When someone with a disability needs accommodations for taking tests, and then they get hit with a pop quiz, then it’s like, ‘I need my accommodations,’” Akins said. “So that was very eye-opening.”

Quiz accommodations were not the only ways students with disabilities could be better served, Spillman said. To him, the classrooms themselves might be extra barriers to students with physical disabilities.

Akins said administration could take one step further in finding out how to better serve its students with disabilities.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to actually get a point of view from someone who goes through it opposed to just hearing it from the grapevine,” Akins said. “Because we can say all we want of what we heard or things like that, but it’s going to be way more impactful if you actually go to someone who is going through it.”

The final Beneficence Dialogue of the semester will be at 5 p.m. March 29 in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center forum room. 

Contact Sara Barker with comments at slbarker3@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @sarabarker326.