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Statement on recent ableist comments from University staff

Published on 22nd July 2020 at 17:00.

We recently became aware of comments made by a professor at the University. Access Sussex believes that these comments are ableist, which is something the University should take extremely seriously.

These comments refer to a tweet from the professor, who we are not publicly naming for legal reasons. In the tweet, they write about being ‘shocked’ by certain reasonable adjustments.

Their particular example refers to a student’s right not to have to be asked questions in a seminar. This is an important adjustment for many students, and should be adhered to without question and as the University is aware, when an adjustment is put in place it is after a process of assessment by those trained to conduct these assessments.

We view these comments as disrespectful and ill advised, as they can be extremely damaging to disabled students. It is already difficult enough for students to obtain reasonable adjustments with the system as it is, but to think that a professor considers that they are unimportant, or questions the need for them, is concerning.

It makes us question if this is a one-off comment, or if this view is shared privately by other members of staff.

The dismissive attitude taken by the professor, when challenged on this view, is also a cause for concern. Instead of apologising for their actions, they claimed it was a joke that had been ‘misunderstood’. 

We would like the University to address the concerns of students and publicly comment that reasonable adjustments are legally recognised support for many disabled students not the punchline of jokes.

Access Sussex would also like to express our solidarity with the communities at Sussex that this professor has commented on in the past, and we think it is time that the University takes a serious look into the conduct of this professor. To continue to ignore their behaviour goes against Sussex’s core values of Kindness, Integrity, and Inclusion - particularly the references to treating everyone in our community with ‘dignity and respect’.