Disabled students unhappy with new director

By Todd Hardy
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 27, 1996

The appointment of a new director to the campus advocacy group for disabled students has destroyed the progress and morale of a once successful organization, disabled students said this week.

"Disabled students need a group to support them, and as a result of this appointment we are being shortchanged and our organization has fallen apart," said Judith Schneider, interdisciplinary studies senior.

Schneider is one of several disabled students on campus who claim that Ann Fowler, director of the Association of Students with Disabilities, has failed to perform her official duties since her appointment in September.

Mindy McCollum, Associated Students vice president for programs and services, appointed Fowler despite objections from several ASD members who said she lacked the experience necessary to lead the organization.

Fowler, who lost the use of her legs last year in an automobile accident, had no previous experience with ASD before her appointment as director.

McCollum said she appointed Fowler because as a newly disabled student she would be more sensitive to the problems that challenge disabled students on campus. Fowler offered a unique perspective and many new ideas for improving the organization, McCollum said.

However, after nearly three months in office, Fowler has held only two official meetings and has been unable to implement any new programs or group activities for disabled students.

Brian McCracken, former ASD director, said Fowler has failed as director because she lacks knowledge of disability related issues.

"The organization is ruined and Ann (Fowler) is not doing anything to help the situation. She's showing her inexperience," McCracken said.

He said at this time last year ASD had already held several meetings, organized a car wash, and participated in a community outreach program with local sixth-graders.

Fowler said her progress as director has been slow because she has had difficulty contacting other disabled students on campus.

"It's hard to start programs with such a lack of participation," she said.

Only three disabled students attended Fowler's first ASD meeting, and two attended the second. Last weekend she cancelled a community service project at the Ronald McDonald House because nobody signed up.

McCracken said Fowler would have better attendance if she held ASD meetings and activities in the Center for Disability Related Resources. He said most of the disabled students on campus have some sort of connection with CeDRR.

Fowler said she chose the Memorial Student Union for her previous meetings because she wants to open ASD up to non-disabled students as a way of increasing disability awareness in the community.

"I held meetings in the Union because it is a central location where all students can meet, not just disabled students," she explained.

As a result of the poor attendance at previous meetings, Fowler said she now plans to hold ASD meetings at CeDRR.

Although he has attended both meetings this semester, McCracken was one of 14 disabled students who attempted to form a new ASD branch when Fowler was appointed. He said the new group failed to get off the ground because many students did not have the time or the desire to set up a new organization.

"We spent so much time trying to fight this (Fowler's appointment) and it got us nowhere. Now people are sick of fighting, sick of the situation, and sick of student government," he said.

McCracken said he went to the ASD meetings because he wants to salvage the remains of an organization for disabled students.

McCollum said she believes Fowler has received little cooperation in her efforts, and said she is impressed with how Fowler has dealt with adversity.

"I don't think they are giving Ann half a chance," she said. "She is probably the strongest woman I've ever met."

Not all disabled students think Fowler is completely at fault for the recent demise of their organization.

Eric Olson, optical engineering sophomore who applied for the director position, said he thinks Fowler has good intentions but said her inexperience has held up ASD's progress.

"Ann Fowler is not doing her job, but I blame Mindy McCollum for ruining the organization," he said.

Olson said aMcCollum should recognize her mistakes and take action toward improving ASD.

But McCollum said she has no plans to remove Fowler from office.

"I continue to give Ann my full support," she said.