|The Education for All Teacher-Training Package - Volume 1 (UNDP - UNESCO, 1995, 162 p.)|
|Topic 2 - Access and Equity|
The Board of Inquiry Game
The players in this game will be involved in a board of inquiry and each person will pretend to be a certain type of person and will present her or his point of view at the meeting of the board. You can prepare for your part in the game by reading the description and instructions below.
A woman with a physical disability has applied for a place in the Faculty of Engineering at the university. She wishes to become a civil engineer. Although she qualifies academically her application has been rejected. She has therefore made an appeal against the faculty's decision and a board of inquiry has now been set up to discuss the issue.
Those present at the meeting are:
The Dean of the Faculty of Engineering
A representative from the organization of persons with disabilities
The Dean of Student Affairs
The physics teacher from the applicants former secondary school
The Chairperson, Registrar of the university
You play the part of the unsuccessful applicant. You are extremely angry and very upset and feel that a great injustice has been done to you. You are certain that your application was rejected because you have a disability and are a woman. You are used to fighting for your rights and will not allow the prejudices of other people to stand in your way.
The facts of your case
You took your A levels in physics, maths and technical drawing and passed each with an A grade. The advertisement in the newspaper inviting applications stated that three B grades at A level were necessary to qualify for the course. You know of students who are able-bodied males who got lower grades than you and were accepted on the course.
You had little trouble with science subjects, including practicals, at school. When necessary the teachers helped to modify some of the laboratory equipment. You took part in the field trips and other similar activities of your class last year. You also swim and do exercises to keep yourself fit.
You have proved to those of your teachers at school who believed that girls and women can-not do well at maths and science that this is not so. You are used to dealing with the extra demands your disability places upon you and to having to work extra hard.
You know it is your right to study engineering and that the university is violating your rights by refusing to admit you. You believe that you must be given the chance to study. You also believe that you are as capable as an able-bodied person and that you can cope with the physical demands of the engineering course.
You are used to standing up for yourself against prejudiced people who believe that disability means inability. As a woman you are also used to fighting against sexism.
In this game you should therefore be very sure of yourself and your ability. You should make your points in a confident, but not aggressive, manner. You must not allow those opposed to you to make you feel frightened, or change your mind.
The Dean of the Faculty of Engineering (a man)
You have been called to this meeting to justify and explain why the applicant was rejected.
The facts of your case:
There has never been a woman on this course. Although other women with the required qualifications have applied in the past, they have been rejected. You have never accepted a person with a disability on the course.
This applicant had the best A level results of all the applicants this year. She was rejected because of her sex and disability.
This is the first time your judgement as Dean of the Faculty has been questioned and the first time that an appeal has been made by a rejected applicant.
You know little about the laws relating to persons with disabilities and did not consider the rights of the applicant when rejecting her application. You have no facts or figures to support any of your arguments or beliefs.
You believe that
persons with disabilities cannot do the course;
women and persons with disabilities are not strong enough to cope with the physical demands of the course during practical work in the field;
women cannot and should not become engineers;
women are not good at maths and physics and other related subjects;
a woman's place is in the home and therefore once she has children she should stay at home. So, even if she could manage the engineering course, it would be a waste of time and deprive a competent male student of a place;
persons with disabilities would be unable to use the laboratories or get up the stairs to the engineering department;
a person with a disability would be in danger and also endanger other students in the labs;
working with a disabled student would make the other students uncomfortable.
You are totally opposed to admitting the applicant, and as Dean you believe you have the right to reject any applicant without having to explain your decision.
Your judgement has never been questioned before and you are angry that you have been challenged. You do not like this board of inquiry.
You should therefore start out by being quite aggressive. Try to put your case before the opposition have a chance to make their points. At the beginning of the game you argue with the teacher and representative from the organization of the disabled even though you cannot support your statements with facts. Later, after some of those in favour of admitting the applicant have given their evidence, because of your lack of evidence for your views you tend to stress the practical problems that would be involved in admitting the applicant. Do not be too stubborn. If the opposition makes a good point, you can listen quietly and then accept what they say. It is possible for you to change your position and agree that the applicant should be admitted.
A representative from the organization of persons with disabilities (a man)
You represent the national organization of persons with disabilities. Your organization has been in the forefront of the fight for equal rights for those with disabilities. You have come to give evidence on behalf of the applicant, who is a member of your organization.
The facts of your case:
You are conversant with all the current legislation relating to the rights of persons with disabilities and can quote the relevant provisions. You are also familiar with the relevant passages of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of the Declaration of the Rights of Disabled Persons.
Your organization's policy is that persons with disabilities must be integrated into the wider society and not isolated. It also emphasizes that persons with disabilities do not want charity; they have a right to equal opportunities, to be self-supporting and to make a contribution to society.
You, of course, have experienced discrimination and ridicule, both personally and as a representative of your organization. It does not upset you any more. You are used to facing strong opposition.
You are convinced that the university is acting unconstitutionally. Knowing your legal facts you are prepared for the opposition. You are not willing to compromise, and you do not fed the need to be diplomatic when talking to the university representatives.
You recognize, however, that the university representatives do not know how to deal with some of the practical problems that they may have to face and you are prepared to advise and help them make the physical adjustments necessary to afford the applicant access.
You should be firm and assertive but not aggressive or rude. If the university representatives are being unreasonable or refuse to change their views you may warn them that legal action can be taken against them, but do this in a non-threatening way. On the other hand you should appear sympathetic to their problems and suggest ways they can overcome these without incurring too much expense. Also offer the services of your organization if at any time they should need them to solve problems. Bell them you are willing to work with them.
The Dean of Student Affairs (a woman)
You have been asked to represent the university at the meeting and to try to explain the problems the university has in admitting the applicant. Also you are there to protect the university's image.
The facts of your case:
you have done some research and have found that the university is in a vulnerable position, legally;
your task during the inquiry is to prevent the possibility of legal action being taken by the applicant;
you also have to try to defend the decision of the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and find acceptable excuses for the rejection of the candidate;
the adjustments and modifications necessary to afford the applicant access to buildings, lecture theatres and laboratory equipment will cost the university money;
the university is short of money and its financial situation is likely to worsen, not improve.
You are worried about the legal implications of the rejection and wish to protect the university.
You personally do not believe that persons with disabilities can do engineering courses because of the practical difficulties.
You believe that because the university is short of money it cannot make access for persons with disabilities a priority.
You believe that the student should wait until the university is able to organize around the special needs of persons with disabilities and then reapply, or she should apply to be admitted to a different course not involving laboratories or field work, e.g maths.
You do not wish to be seen as a prejudiced person.
You should aim for a reconciliation between the two sides and a compromise on the part of the applicant. You try to be understanding and persuasive, suggesting alternatives to her. You try to steer the discussion away from the legal aspects and to stress the practical and financial difficulties for the university. You appear to see both sides of the argument, but as Dean of Students your main aim is to protect the university and the Dean of Engineering. However, if it appears that the opposition will not compromise and will take legal action against the university, you should change your position.
The physics teacher (a woman)
You play the part of a sixth-form teacher of physics. You are very angry and upset that the applicant, whom you taught, has been rejected. You have come to the meeting to give evidence on her behalf.
The facts of your case:
You yourself had to battle to overcome the prejudice of teachers and peers to become a physics teacher. You were the first girl from your village to take physics and chemistry at A level. You taught the applicant at secondary school. She was the best student in your physics class, and it was you who encouraged her to apply for the engineering course at the university.
You know that she can cope with the demands of the course and that it is not difficult to modify equipment, etc. when necessary because you did this at the school, e.g. you adjusted the height of the desk that she used in the classroom. In the laboratory you arranged for a small portable wooden platform to be placed where she worked so that she could reach the equipment.
You arranged with the librarian to put the physics books on a lower shelf within reach of the pupil, and to have a lower desk placed in the library for her use.
This is not a new situation for you as you have had to argue the case for girls doing maths and science subjects at A level before, at your school. You have been successful in showing that girls are capable; all your female pupils have passed their examinations in physics.
You believe that all people have an equal right to education and equal opportunities, whether male or female, able-bodied or disabled. You believe that teachers and other educators have a moral and professional obligation to encourage and facilitate the education of all individuals, including underprivileged people and groups.
You know that girls and women need more role-models to show them that they can achieve the same things as men and therefore that women who wish to enter fields of endeavour considered 'masculine' should be encouraged. You also believe that persons with disabilities should be integrated into mainstream society and should be assisted to become productive and self-supporting, just like anyone else.
In this game you should be very persuasive, but should indicate that you feel that the university as an education institution is failing in its purpose and duty. You should not attack the university representatives. Wait for them to make their points and then counter them, with evidence and reasoned argument. Do not be emotional or aggressive, but do not allow the opposition's arguments to make you change your mind. When they express fears or worries about the difficulties that would be involved, patiently explain to them how these can be overcome. Talk to them as one educator to another, trying to work together to solve a problem. Do not treat them as the enemy. You know from experience that persuasion is more productive than confrontation.
The Chairperson (a man or a woman)
You are the Chair of this board of inquiry. Although you are the Registrar of the university, in this meeting you are NEUTRAL and do not have a vote.
You may pose questions but you must not express any views on the matter being discussed.
Your job is to chair the discussion. You must make certain that every member of the board has a chance to speak.
Begin by inviting the applicant to state her case. Then allow the Dean of Engineering to speak.
After that you can invite those supporting the applicant and then the Dean of Student Affairs to speak. After this allow further discussion.
Remember that the meeting should not take longer than thirty minutes. Control the discussion carefully and do not allow anyone to speak for too long. Try to get the board members to come to an agreement.
At the end you must:
summarize the problem;
outline the points against admitting the applicant;
outline the points in favour of admitting the applicant;
state what action you will recommend the university to take, and why.