Unmerited smear

The Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities was formed to provide the president with advice on issues which affect the disabled in our university community. It has done so, and admirably. Gary Gresholdt has dne a superb job and was unanimously re-elected as commission chair at its ofirst meeting last month.

To suggest—as do Ms. Sorge, Ms. Reinhardt, and Mr. Jordan—that simply because a member rotates off the commission, he/she cannot be a spokesperson for or be in a position to assist the disabled, insults the many people on our campus who, regardless of commission membership, care deeply about these issues.

To suggest, as they do, that it is “proper” to appoint someone with a disability in place of someone without a disability smacks of reverse discrimination. It stereotypes those with disabilities as being the only persons in society who care about these issues. And, to ascribe anything but the best intentions to Mr. Gresholdt is an undeserved smear of the worst kind.

When formed almost two years ago, the commission was to include “both students and nonstudents with and without disabilities” and was to be appointed by the president. Nominations and volunteers were sought and virtually all suggested for membership were named.

Last year a drawing was held to set the terms of each member, and Ms. Sorge, among others, received a one year term. Services for Students with Disabilities was the only office with two representatives on the commission, and when Ms. Sorge’s term expired it was decided, as a matter of policy, to limit representation from any one office to one member. She now disputes this process.

No one has a vested interest in or “right” to service on an advisory board. In fact, those with narrow or parochial concerns can actually harm the process, especially when the commission’s assigned task this year is to study the structure of how disability services are provided to all at NIU—not just students—and to make recommendations as to how these services can be coordinated and strengthened.

Services for Students with Disabilities is not the only office on this campus which cares about or has expertise in helping the disabled.

It is unfortunate that whenever a person disagrees with an administrative judgment the first cry is “Discrimination!” and the second step is to notify the Star. The sufficiency of services to the disabled is not at issue here.

In fact, the administration is absolutely committed to upgrading these services through a reorganized structure. Are the critics afraid of the study of service delivery? Should the Star give front page and editorial coverage to what is a personality clash perhaps fueled by fear of lost vested interests?

Finally, I take great personal issue with your editorial of Oct. 3, in which Mr. Gresholdt’s comment about members with less-than-obvious disabilities was deemed “silly.”

My own disability—and do you really care what it is?—is “unobservable.” Does that make me less able to care about or respond to disability issues than someone who is visibly disabled? And, since when is heart trouble not a disability?

Your writer’s cavalier attitude about the nature of disabilities is precisely the type of misunderstanding and intolerance that the commission was designed to combat. I hope that he or she was not echoing the sentiments of those who have chosen to subvert the commission through the press.

George M. Shur

University Legal Counsel

Member, Presidential Commission

on Persons With Disabilities