Filled seat, issue still unresolved

By Penny Rynberk

The coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities who was denied reappointment to the Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities, recently accepted the commission seat representing that office.

Linda Sorge, one of two coordinators for Services for Students with Disabilities, agreed to fill the seat after NIU President John La Tourette originally did not honor her reappointment request.

The department’s commission seat opened earlier this semester after Sue Reinhardt, the other office coordinator, resigned in protest of Sorge’s non-reappointment.

Sorge, who is blind, said she accepted the position because she is the only other office coordinator.

“It’s not the best way to go back on,” Sorge said. “I still feel that there aren’t enough representatives from my office … it would be good if people had enough concern to put (Sorge and Sue) on.”

A committee rule stating “faculty and staff shall serve three-year staggered terms” might have been the reason for the non-reappointment. Sorge’s three-year term ended last year.

“Yes, my term ended,” Sorge said. “Just because of that, they shouldn’t have taken one of the disabled spokespersons off the commission.”

George Shur, a commission member and university legal counsel, said he believes the three-year terms are “the only way to have a good commission. Any group has to have new input and fresh blood to encourage possibilities.”

George Abbott, a student commission representative, and Sorge said they will request additional amendments to the commission’s bylaws that could increase disabled commission representation.

Abbott said he would like to see an increase in the size of the commission to “get more direct disabled input.”

Some commission members that are directly involved with serving the disabled aren’t an essential part of the commission,” Abbott said. “By increasing the commission size, we can accommodate more disabled voices.”

Two other amendments Abbott plans to address involve the implementation of a strict attendance policy and, assuming a larger commission, an increase in the number of student, faculty and staff-disabled representation.

Shur said he is undecided about bylaw amendments. “I’m not sure whether I’d support amendments or not. I would have to think long and hard about it,” he said.

Shur added that La Tourette must approve any bylaw alterations the commission might seek. “People seem to forget that the commission doesn’t have a life of its own. It is created by the president for the president,” he said.

Sorge said she feels an increase in disabled commission representation is very important because the able-bodied can’t “completely understand what the disabled are going through.”

Able-bodied people can try. We’re very appreciative of their caring and concern, but they can’t know the inner struggles of someone with a disability.”

Sorge added the commission members with “hidden” disabilities don’t experience the same discrimination those with visual disabilities experience. “Their disabilities are hidden until that person discloses the information,” she said.

“I agree (having a disability) helps, but it’s not absolutely necessary to have firsthand knowledge about having a disability,” Shur said. “There are others who have spouses, parents and children that also have sympathy.”

The commission still has problems to iron out, Abbott said. “The fact of just filling the seat does not resolve the issue,” he said.

The fact that we had this problem with (Sorge) isn’t necessarily negative. We have finally pointed out major concerns to all people and can finally set up what the commission was set up to do,” Abbott said. “Things will become much more positive, and we can move on as a team.”