Mount Allison has made significant progress in supporting students with mental illnesses and cognitive disabilities

On March 9, the Argosy published a video titled Accessibility at Mount A with Hannah. The video’s host, Hannah Mackellar, criticized the University’s lack of support for certain disadvantaged groups, stating, “Not only is Mount Allison kind of shit for people with physical disabilities … but they’re pretty shit for people with mental illness and cognitive disabilities.” As I only have experience with a cognitive disability and mental illness, it is these topics which I will discuss. While I firmly support Mackellar’s wish to have more support for such groups, I feel this is best achieved not only through criticism, but also through an acknowledgement of progress when it is made. In discussing this, I will also need to clarify a misleading statement made by Mackellar regarding the Meighen Centre.

Let us first touch on the issue of mental illness. Since I came to Mount Allison in 2015, the University has made incredible leaps forward in terms of addressing mental illness. Briefly, a part-time psychiatrist has been brought in, walk-in hours have been added for counselling sessions and the Meighen Centre’s scope has been broadened to support students with mental illnesses. While the University surely needs to do more, this progress is remarkable and I am personally grateful for it.

Turning to cognitive disabilities, I believe that Mt. A is exceptional in its support of cognitively disabled students. The Meighen Centre, which supports cognitively disabled students, is indeed one of the reasons I chose to attend Mt. A. In the Argosy’s video, Mackellar states that Meighen Centre students are only funded in their first year and heavily implies that beyond this point they are essentially left with nothing. This is patently untrue. As a third-year student, I can personally say that the Meighen Centre has fully funded my needs thus far this year. The needs of some students do exceed the Meighen Centre budget; however, in these cases external grants are often sought out by Meighen Centre staff in tandem with students in order to fulfil their needs. There are, of course, certain situations in which Meighen Centre students need to pay out of pocket for services. This might occur, for example, when a student requires more weekly tutoring than the Meighen Centre can fairly cover. While Meighen Centre funding is not ideal, Mackellar’s insinuation that students are not supported after first year is, quite simply, false.

In closing, it is worth restating that I believe Mackellar and I want the same thing – that is, we want the University to adequately support students with various disabilities. My suggestion is simply that we ought to balance criticism with an acknowledgement of progress when it is made. Moreover, our criticism will only be effective if we take care to accurately represent that which we aim to criticize.

At the time of writing this piece (Sunday, March 18) the video in question had been made private.

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