Author Archives: Janine M. Utell

Call for Submissions—Living with Disability in the Time of Coronavirus

The Call: I would love to hear from any of you about your experiences surviving Covid as a student who, like me, experiences disability. If you have ideas about how your university did a great job supporting disabled students during this time, or ideas about how your university can do better in the future, now’s the time to share them! Heck, if you’d just like to vent a little anonymously, that’s fine too. I want to hear your voice.

I am inviting you to submit your blog posts to me, Ari Wolf, member of the MLA Committee on the Status of Graduate Students in the Humanities, at arwolf@alumnae.mills.edu. I want to get your work up as soon as possible so that others can hear what you’ve got to say. When people think about college campuses and disability, they often think about things like testing times or parking. The idea that disability can be a source of oppression that impacts every aspect of our lives still isn’t quite there yet. It is my wish that this project will be a small drop in the bucket that moves us all forward to acknowledging disability as a vital part of understanding diversity in all its glory, as well as all the bullying and abuses done towards those who are marginalized. I stand in solidarity with all of my “crip sibs” who self-identify as disabled. You’re not alone.


I’ve written my own blog post on this subject to kick us off:

Dear Colleagues,

I write to you today with a purpose. My purpose is borne from Covid-19, from the struggles I’ve witnessed my fellow students undergo, as well as the struggles I myself have fought through.

My purpose is simple: I wish to inspire, encourage, beg, advocate, do whatever it takes to push universities to acknowledge the needs of the growing population of immunocompromised and disabled students.

We’re here. We will enter through the front door of every college and university in this country in this fall of 2022 and beyond. We are just like every one of you reading this, with our big dreams and our dedication to working hard to achieve them. We are also very, very different.

We are different because the mandate to unmask is, for some of us, the difference between being physically able to attend college in the fall, or not.

We are different because right now, many of us are already engaged in what will become protracted arguments with departments too entrenched in their traditional and elitist vision of university life to accommodate our needs with a hybrid model of classroom attendance.

We are different because there are laws to protect us, including federal ADA standards, but unfortunately many universities do not follow them out of inconvenience or callousness.

We were here before Covid. Some of us, like myself, have auto immune diseases. Some of us had asthma worsened by raging fires or polluted skies or global warming or all of the above. Some of us had heart conditions, inflammatory disorders, rare diseases, amputations.

We were always here. You often chose not to see us. We were never invisible just because you were not always interested in looking at us.

Now that Covid has hit with a vengeance, we’re here in even more sizable numbers. Unfortunately, given the research into the symptoms of Long Covid, our numbers have rapidly grown in the past two years. Given a few more short years, we might well outnumber you.

That is all the more reason to adapt your policies now.

Colleagues, we do not demand anything from you. We are in no position to demand anything. We are sick, remember? Our lives are too often about managing drawers full of medication, hospital stays, working ahead in fear of the days or weeks when we will not be able to get out of bed. We don’t have the energy to convince you that we are worthy of being given anything.

Nonetheless, I so wish that you would consider what I have to say. Now is the time to implement solutions to the challenges we present. Be creative and be bold. Use your existing technology.

For example, schedule departmental meetings online to spare people the trek and the safety concerns. Most Humanities and Social Sciences classes can easily be adapted to accommodate a hybrid model which allows for remote attendance for those too ill or concerned about Covid outbreaks to be on campus. If you are a Teaching Assistant, normalize meeting your advisees remotely rather than in person. Practice using your voice to raise concerns about your university’s Covid testing practices or rising Covid rates or mask mandates, and find someone willing to listen to you.

We can all make campus environments safer and more inclusive. 

That responsibility falls on every one of us.