Students call for Beckwith Residential Support Services to reopen

By Aliza Majid, Staff Writer

On July 7 the University announced that Beckwith Residential Support Services would remain closed for the Fall 2020 semester due to staff storage. 

“They said that they only had 30% of the staff required to come and run the program successfully which is why they shut down. But because of the COVID-19 circumstances, everything kind of looks a little different so why can’t they just offer the limited support they currently have at this point in time?” said Barrett Patton, senior in LAS.

BRSS provides living accommodations and support for students with physical disabilities and services offered include an ADA accessible dorm room, access to personal assistants and additional 24/7 support as needed.

“This was problematic because for some of my peers who live in the dorm this was the most appropriate, adequate living space for them, which would make it very difficult to find housing with less than six weeks to go before the semester would start,” said Zain Bando, junior in Media.

Bando filmed a video voicing his concerns in regards to the announcement which gained attention on social media and resulted in the University releasing a statement on his Twitter post.

“The video got a lot of attention on your social media platforms, specifically Twitter. The University reached out to me and basically gave me a statement that offered no solutions or no practical solutions on how we can move forward with this process and I replied to the tweet and I told them how I felt,” Bando said.

In response to the shutdown a group of students created a petition after Bando’s video in order to call for University Housing to reopen the ADA accessible rooms in Nugent Hall. 

“The students, myself and others who were involved in the creation of this petition received an email stating that the east wing of the Nugent Hall for the rooms would be available to us, even though the residential support services program itself will not be even opening,” Patton said. “We were very glad that they conceded this much to us but there are still other issues that we’re trying to work through.”

BRSS provides assistance for students at all times but these services will be inaccessible during the fall semester which will force students to figure out their circumstances on their own.

“The key hurdle that we’re going through right now is the personal assistance. UIUC would help cover that through the office of vocational rehab but now there is a possibility that that may not be the case and that we would have to go through what’s called home services, which is independent from the University,” Bando said. “This is also a little bit of an issue, because now for the students who are out of state, they are ineligible to get home services in Illinois.”

As of right now the main goal is to provide personal assistance for students coming to campus in the upcoming semester as funding for BRSS students has been closed.

“Strangely, the four administrative staff charged with running the program will continue to work on site this fall and be paid as if the status of BRSS has not changed at all. This situation represents yet another unnecessary hurdle in the way of BRSS students as (they) work to return to campus this fall,” Patton said.

The petition currently has over 7,200 signatures and has been shared across social media.

“I wanted to simply say thank you to everyone who signed and shared the petition. It really means a lot to all of us and we’re really excited and we’re looking forward to returning to Champaign in a matter of weeks and as safe as possible,” Bando said.

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