On 10/29/19, our FIG met for the second time. Sam shared that Melissa Riggio’s (MR’s) work continues to forge ahead, and he met with a variety of department chairs to share the new changes where MR students will become more integrated into CUNY classes, Blackboard, and so forth. The chairs seemed receptive he reported. Also, an email to faculty in the next few months is being crafted to announce their (optional) opportunity to have an MR student audit their class.
Stella provided a helpful update from Chris Rosa at CUNY Central on the rollout of CUNY Unlimited. Chris sent out an application to the US Education Department on behalf of CUNY Unlimited that includes the success of MR Students who are living in the dorms at College of Staten Island, which is a component the US Education Department was interested in, among others. They are also working on a different type of Title 9 training for CUNY Unlimited students (the current one is all online, and would be difficult to follow for them).
Chris also said that CUNY Unlimited students will pay tuition and student fees, making them full-fledged CUNY students who can join clubs and student government. This likely puts them on the “academic side” of the university rather than the “continuing education” side administratively, though this may end up being the decision of each individual campus (unclear who would make this decision, and with whose input). CUNY Unlimited students will continue to audit classes and will create portfolios in each class that will be graded by people in CUNY’s School of Professional Studies who have experience with work-related portfolios. CUNY Unlimited will start with the 5 campuses currently hosting Melissa Riggio programs (with 25 students admitted on each campus), and then other campuses will have the option to opt in.
We discussed Sue’s article, which we all found helpful for illustrating the energy, enthusiasm, and willingness to take risks that MR students bring to our classrooms. We agreed this is a good approach to getting other faculty on board and understanding how this can improve peer relationships and teach non-MR students quite a lot through these interactions. We appreciated the vivid classroom examples that Sue shared in her article.
Building on the spirit of Sue’s article, Nick shared “Summer in the Forest” a fantastic film about a commune for people with ID in France started in the 60s as an alternative to asylums that still exists today and stands as a hopeful, humane example of people with disabilities living a good life. We should all see this! Film description and website below:
Like countless others Philippe, Michel, Andre and Patrick were labeled ‘idiots’, locked away and forgotten in violent asylums, until the 1960s, when the young philosopher Jean Vanier took a stand and secured their release – the first time in history that anyone had beaten the system. Together they created L’Arche, a commune at the edge of a beautiful forest near Paris. A quiet revolution was born. Now in his 80s, still at L’Arche and revered by some as a living saint, Jean has discovered something that most of us have forgotten – what it is to be human, to be foolish, and to be happy. SUMMER IN THE FOREST invite us to abandon the rat race and forge new friendships.
Finally, we began talking about the difficulty of finding employment for people with ID, which is alluded to both in Sue’s article and Chapter 5 of our FIG’s book. We had a lot to say about this, and many questions, and from what we can tell the success stories are on a very case-by-case basis. Most internships through MR do not turn into jobs, and we wondered whether the employers hosting the interns could be challenged in some way on this. In the CUNY Unlimited rollout, we are hoping for a centralized push to make contact with employers that can not only provide internships, but who also can provide jobs. We were somewhat unclear on the tax breaks and federal incentives and how they apply to employers – they are there, but the details are hazy.
This would be a great topic to go deeper on in a future FIG, especially building on Nick’s expertise and experience preparing students for work. Until next time….