C/O Sharon McCutcheon

A new initiative at McMaster hopes to provide accessibility for more students  

A new student initiative requesting mutual aid is popping up at McMaster in response to the lack of support students are receiving with the university’s mandated return to campus.  

According to the McMaster Oversight Committee Report released in May 2021, professors are not required to record in-person lectures or provide any alternative online resources for students who are unable to attend campus.  

The mutual aid request calls for any students attending in-person classes to record and share lectures with their peers online.  

The mutual aid request calls for any students attending in-person classes to record and share lectures with their peers online.  

On Feb.7, a discussion panel, Push Back on Back to Mac, was held to further address the issues that the mutual aid request highlights.  

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess, a student-run advocacy and peer support organization for students who experience disability, chronic illness, mental health concerns or inaccessibility sat on the discussion panel for Push Back on Back to Mac.  

“McMaster is not listening to disabled, immunocompromised, neurodivergent and otherwise at-risk students when we say we need hybrid learning options. We’ve tried letters, petitions [and] organizing. I don’t feel hopeful for an adequate and safe response,” stated Woolf in their announcement of the mutual aid request.  

“McMaster is not listening to disabled, immunocompromised, neurodivergent and otherwise at-risk students when we say we need hybrid learning options. We’ve tried letters, petitions [and] organizing. I don’t feel hopeful for an adequate and safe response.”

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess

During the panel, Woolf expressed their hope to expand current support in terms of online lectures and course content. The panel was in agreement that more access was necessary for returning to campus, with solutions ranging from completely online classes to hybrid models. 

“We had at the height of [the panel] over 100 people in attendance, which is wonderful and more than I expected. I think we were able to really demonstrate various perspectives on the return to campus, whether that’s from faculty, staff and students [and McMaster Students Union] members and workers as well,” said Woolf. 

Although the panel saw positive responses in support of their stance, Woolf also spoke about some of the backlash in reaction to the mutual aid request. 

“When I started talking about the mutual aid initiative, I was warned quite a bit that the university might get worried about it and take action in some way to shut it down just due to, I think, concerns of intellectual property and students recording lectures and then distributing them,” said Woolf. 

Some faculty also raised concerns during the question and answering session about having themselves and course material being recorded. However, Woolf mentioned that during the panel, a point was raised about how the best way to keep students from recording and distributing course material was for the professor to post it online for the class themselves. 

“I also think that there are ways to get creative with how we teach in a way that hybrid can work . . . The fact is, it takes a little bit of thinking and I don’t know if professors are willing to put extra work into their course development, especially if they had originally planned it to be one way,” said Woolf. 

“I also think that there are ways to get creative with how we teach in a way that hybrid can work . . . The fact is, it takes a little bit of thinking and I don’t know if professors are willing to put extra work into their course development, especially if they had originally planned it to be one way.”

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess

Woolf also stressed the importance of including disabled people during planning so any issues are worked out before the plan is used to prevent band aid solutions being used later on that don’t work as efficiently. 

“[McMaster] should have been bringing people who experienced disability into those conversations to talk about accessibility from the forefront because disabled students and staff, we aren’t expendable and we deserve to be included and safe on campus but also to be acknowledged for our value and our knowledge here. [I]t would have been a really good use of disabled community knowledge and wisdom to bring us into those conversations from the beginning,” said Woolf. 

[I]t would have been a really good use of disabled community knowledge and wisdom to bring us into those conversations from the beginning.”

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess

In addition to the impact that Woolf has seen as the director of Maccess, Woolf said they have also seen the difference in their own studies as a fourth-year social work student.  

“All of my classes are continuing to have online options, which is wonderful, but I think that my safety shouldn’t have to rely on essentially luck of where I am in the university,” said Woolf. 

“All of my classes are continuing to have online options, which is wonderful, but I think that my safety shouldn’t have to rely on essentially luck of where I am in the university.”

Emunah Woolf, director of Maccess

If students are interested in contributing to the initiative or would like to access lectures through mutual aid, they can visit the mutual aid spreadsheet at tinyurl.com/MacMutualAid. 

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