“We need to ensure that no other student is put into a position where accommodation was expected, and we had a responsibility to deliver it, and it wasn’t available,” Kachanoski said. “This was not acceptable.”
At the same time, the MUN Student Union (MUNSU) is organizing a rally for Wednesday, to make a firm statement students with disabilities must be accommodated — no ifs, ands or buts.
“This situation never should have happened in the first place. We do respect that if someone has a religious accommodations, just like any other accommodations, those are things that need to be met,” said Robert Leamon, director of external affairs for MUNSU. “But the difficulty is that we need to be making sure that all accommodations are being accounted for, and what’s not been happening in this case is proper accommodation for the student.”
Sears was enrolled for the History of Espionage course taught by Panjabi, and approached her to request that she wear a wireless microphone that would transmit to his hearing aid. Sears said the professor refused, citing religious reasons.
Sears has now dropped the course, and filed a human rights complaint against the university.
Kachanoski said that it never should have come to that.
“Our process is that the Blundon Centre is where students with disabilities would meet with the professor around a particular student’s disability and have a plan for accommodation before start of the first class, so when the student comes in, that is in place,” he said. “That conversation never happened, and that’s why I’m doing a review around why didn’t that happen?”
Kachanoski said he’d like to offer an apology directly to Sears for what happened, and the university will “engage in that discussion” with the Human Rights Commission about the complaint Sears has filed.
The Telegram requested a comment from Panjabi, but did not receive a response by deadline.
This is not the first time she has been at the centre of controversy; a similar situation came up in 1996, and resulted in an agreement with the university that her religious beliefs would be respected and she would not need to wear such a device.
Kachanoski said that the university is reviewing that agreement, too.
Kachanoski said at this point, he understands that Sears no longer wants to take the History of Espionage course.