During the fat years for higher education (roughly, 1965 through 2008), when more and more money was pouring in, most colleges and universities added lots of administrative offices and programs. Over time, most of them grew, following the logic of bureaucracies in non-profit settings: look busy, hype your accomplishments (real or imaginary), then ask for more money.
We have a good example of that in Clemson’s Office of Student Disability, which has managed to get the school to hold “Walk and Roll in My Shoes” day. This event will have a number of faculty and administrators paired with students who have some disability and the former will adopt the disability of the student for a day. For example, an administrator might spend the day getting around in a wheelchair, as the student does, thus creating “A blended immersion experience for disability awareness.” (Inside Higher Ed has the story here.)
Colleges and universities have been making their campuses as hindrance- free as possible for people with disabilities for many years. You would be hard-pressed to find a building, parking lot, walkway, restroom, or anything else that hasn’t been put in compliance with state and federal regulations on access for those with disabilities. So how will the disability bureaucracy avoid budget cuts? The best way is to look important, thus making it dangerous for politicians to suggest doing that.
What is actually gained by events like “Walk or Roll,” screening a documentary on deaf entertainers, and others? Supposedly, they “increase awareness of people with disabilities,” but what college students are not aware that some among us have to deal with problems? Obsessing over disabilities is just as ridiculous as obsessing over racial diversity.
But those obsessions keep money flowing for people who have hitched their wagons to the claimed need to battle the “inequities” they find in society. We learn that three Clemson professors are angling for the university to “expand disability studies into stand-alone courses and even a minor.” That would create new faculty positions and hard-core allies for the Office of Student Disability. It’s very doubtful that more than a tiny number of students would think that their college time and money would be well spent in “disability studies,” but such courses aren’t to be judged on the basis of costs and benefits. They’re just symbols of college officials’ fealty to the “social justice” agenda.
In his book The Victims’ Revolution (which I reviewed here), Bruce Bawer quoted this statement by a disability studies advocate: “Disability studies should work to de-stigmatize disease, illness, disease and impairment, including those that cannot be measured or explained by biological science.” How many college students do you think “stigmatize” people who are in wheelchairs, who are blind, or who are deaf? Among whatever tiny number that might be, how many of them are apt to stop doing that because of campus events and courses? I suspect we’re now down to zero.
Just as some in the current civil rights movement work desperately to find new villains to keep itself going (such as hidden white racism, which I wrote about here), the disabilities movement invents new problems to keep itself going.