Disability studies class renewed for next academic year

May 11, 2018, 2:56 a.m.

The status of Stanford’s introductory course on disability studies has been resolved following a successful campaign led by the Stanford Disability Initiative. After the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) pledged an additional year’s funding on Apr. 10, the Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice agreed to incorporate the class into its 2018-2019 course offerings.

The future of the “Introduction to Disability Studies and Disability Rights” class had been in jeopardy, as academic departments were financially unable to accommodate it. Nevertheless, the class’ status in subsequent years remains indeterminate and likely depends on the availability of funding and qualified faculty to teach it.

Rohin Bryan Deb, chief of staff to Harry Elam, wrote in an email to The Daily that the VPUE is very pleased that the class will be taught again next year.

Next year, the course will be taught in winter quarter by Doron Dorfman J.S.M. ’14, a J.S.D. Candidate at the Law School who designed and led the inaugural class in fall 2017.

“I am thrilled to be teaching the class again,” Dorfman said. He also thanked the efforts of the Stanford Disability Initiative, which launched its campaign on March 2 with an Op-Ed in The Daily titled “Save Intro to Disability Studies.” 700 people — including students, faculty, staff and alumni — signed the petition, according to a statement released by the group.

“This achievement signals a clear message to Stanford’s academic community: that disability studies is important to community and that it is time to have it as an integral and permanent part of Stanford’s colloquium,” Dorfman said.

The class will be considered a Cardinal Course as well, joining over 150 other classes recognized by the Haas Center for Public Service for integrating community service with academic coursework, as it will include a field trip to the Ed Roberts Campus, home to several of the Bay Area’s disability rights organizations, to teach students more about disability rights activism and policy work.

“The students get a chance to explore the unique and world-renowned universally designed building, as well as to speak with activists and veterans in the American disability rights movement, some of [whom] are people whose work we read in class,” Dorfman said.

In addition to “Introduction to Disability Studies,” the English department will also be offering a class on disability and world literature in the 2018-2019 school year, Elam added.

Matt Wigler ’19, an ASSU Senator and member of its Academic Affairs Committee, said he was delighted by the news and believes that the continuation of the class will be a stepping stone for the growth of the disability studies at Stanford more broadly. During his recent election campaign, Wigler advocated a new Disability Studies minor as well as a community center for students with disabilities.

“I hope to work closely with the disability community to help ensure not only that the class will be sustained long into the future but that we set it up as a gateway to an eventual interdisciplinary minor in Disability Studies, making it a priority to identify a home department for the class … [and] advocate for the hiring of more faculty who study disability,” Wigler said.

In their statement’s concluding remarks, the Stanford Disability Initiative promised to campaign for an academic department to permanently integrate the class and grow disability studies scholarship at Stanford.

“Our mission will be complete when Stanford has established a full-fledged Disability Studies program to house classes, research, faculty and an undergraduate program,” the statement read.

Contact Yasmin Samrai at ysamrai ‘at’ stanford.edu.


Yasmin Samrai ’21 is a Desk Editor for Local. She hails from London, UK. She loves traveling, listening to 80s music and sipping Earl Grey tea. Feel free to ask her about her favourite James Bond or talk politics. Contact her at ysamrai ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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