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Release: Immediate

UI appoints task force on students with learning disabilities

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Issues facing students with learning disabilities at the University of Iowa and the support available to the students will be the focus of a new task force of faculty, staff and students.

The task force is chaired by Peter D. Blanck, professor of law and a nationally known expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), who will oversee the year-long evaluation. The committee will make its recommendations to the Office of the Provost in the spring of 1999.

"The issues of evaluating and accommodating students with learning disabilities in post-secondary education has been a growing concern over the past few years as the number of students with learning disabilities has risen," Blanck says. "While American society is slowly making progress in recognizing the needs of the physically disabled, we've only explored the tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning disabilities."

"I applaud the university administration for bringing this group together to examine and explore what is happening here," Blanck says. "I know of no other university that has taken such steps to try to come to a real understanding of what's at stake for students, faculty and for the university."

The discussion on accommodating students with learning disabilities at colleges and universities moved into the national spotlight last fall when a federal judge ruled that Boston University had violated the rights of students under the ADA. The judge ruled that Boston University administrators had unilaterally changed the guidelines for identifying students with learning disabilities and sharply curtailed accommodations for the students.

The UI committee is charged with examining the prevalence of students with learning disabilities and what types of disabilities they have; assessing the support available from the UI and other sources for students with learning disabilities; and assessing attitudes of faculty, staff and other students toward students with learning disabilities.

Members of the committee will interview UI administrators, faculty, students and staff as well as representatives from campus offices and groups such as the Office of Affirmative Action, University Counseling Service, the Office of Campus Programs, Residence Services, Student Disability Services, Council on Disability Awareness, Student Health Services and others.

In addition to Blanck, members of the committee include the following:
Robert S. Olick, associate professor of medical ethics; Frederick J. Antczak, professor of rhetoric and associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts; Kay E. Gfeller, professor of music; Michael O'Hara, professor and chair of the UI Department of Psychology; Lynn C. Richman, professor of pediatrics; Lisa L. Troyer, assistant professor of sociology; Pat J. Folsom, assistant director, Undergraduate Academic Advising Center; Belinda L. Marner, assistant vice president for student services.

The committee will also include two undergraduates and two graduate students. Mark E. Schantz, general counsel for UI, will be an ex officio member of the committee.