The Admissions team is grateful for the constant guidance we receive from the Office of Learning Support (OLS). Over the years, we have had applicants with various learning disabilities, including some with physical disabilities that affect or inform their learning styles and abilities. Since the OLS is not only warmly welcoming of students with all kinds of needs but also offers continuous academic support to them on campus, we at the Office of Admissions feel confident in giving all deserving students the opportunity to study at Ashoka University. The OLS works very closely with the Admissions team, providing unique applicant-specific support at various stages of the Application, Admissions and Assessment processes, as needed. Once offers of admission are made and accepted, we connect incoming students, who need special learning assistance to the OLS team, prior to their arrival on campus. The OLS also contributes meaningfully to the Academic Bridge Programme, which we host annually for incoming students who need help with the English language, and academic reading and writing. Our common vision and passion to make the Ashoka community more diverse and inclusive deeply connects the OLS with the Office of Admissions.
-Mercia Prince, Office of Admissions
A university is a space for free learning, living and expression. To this end, a university then has to be malleable and open to moulding and remoulding itself in a manner that each member of the community is able to access it, engage with it and make it their own. Since its inception, Ashoka has been walking this talk. It adopted and has been actioning a multi-pronged approach towards inclusion. The collective vision, intent and collaboration of Ashoka’s varied, unique and dedicated offices make it possible to provide all the appropriate means, resources, services, support and safety net to its students.
During the initial years of the university, the Office of Student Life (OSL) and the Office of Learning Support (OLS) worked hand in hand to drive the above vision and goal. In the academic year 2017-18, the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) was established under the leadership of the Dean, Student Affairs, with 3 pillars under its ambit- Student Life, Residence Life and Sports and Exercise. Since then the OSA has been instrumental in nurturing and expanding a symbiotic and organic process of taking the vision and mission of inclusion to greater heights.
The OLS brings new knowledge, best practices and awareness in the field of ableism. Through its continuous support, guidance, feedback, training and sensitisation of ground staff, the OLS has enabled the OSA to recognise and address specific needs of differently abled students. The OSA with its larger scope and structure is deeply committed and continuously working towards reducing social, intellectual, emotional, financial and physical accessibility barriers through all its programmes for a well-rounded outside the classroom experience- 24×7 pastoral care and emergency response system in the Residence Halls, creating an ergonomic dorm access, designing and contributing to transition initiatives such as Orientation Week and Academic Bridge Programme, Resident Assistant (RA) Programme with a team of highly trained RAs and RA Mentors as peer first-responders and go-to support on every floor of Residence Halls, dedicated Office Hours and Open-door policy of the Dean and Director’s Office, a carefully crafted inclusive club policy, 50 plus clubs and societies and a gamut of sporting and fitness programmes providing opportunities to cater to diverse interests to name a few.
To me personally, this collaborative journey of working with students across a wide spectrum of learning, ableism and social context has been self-awakening, humbling and enriching. My first experience of a student with disability disrupted my status quo and pushed me further into the space of learning by unlearning. Over a period of time, working closely with them has helped me hone my listening skills, become more open, mindful and continuously reflect upon and check my privileges. Most importantly, this helped surface and drive my passion for diversity and inclusion at Ashoka
-Rashmi Singh, Office of Student Life
Be it creating a disability-friendly infrastructure, giving access to a robust support system, or spreading awareness among the larger Ashoka community, the university has been a bastion of inclusion since its inception. For instance, the neurodiversity newsletter and posts that were done by OLS last year was a good initiative to introduce the campus to this often missed part of diversity and inclusion. The Diversity and Inclusion Committee also started much-needed conversations around food intolerances and how that can be accommodated by the mess, before the lockdown. The Ashoka Centre for Wellbeing and OLS ensures that professors and relevant authorities are informed about a student’s mental health needs, should any accommodation be done for special circumstances. There are, of course, ways in which our current efforts can be strengthened.
The CDO actively seeks out equal opportunity employers. Even with the companies that do not explicitly state this, the recruitment process is designed in a way that gives any potential candidate, irrespective of whether or not they have a visible/invisible disability, equal consideration for the position. When we are made aware that a certain candidate needs accommodations, should they be selected, we communicate this with the organisation and endeavour to get the request accommodated.
One of the things that might help us do this better is to have a stronger tie-up with OLS: For instance, having prior knowledge about candidates with any forms of disability can help us encourage them to approach the CDO for personalised counselling. We did a similar exercise with 8 students who were in the Bridge program last year. We conducted a customised resume building and review, and counselling sessions. This was a fruitful endeavour for both sides, and we are eager to collaborate for more such activities.
Congratulations, Team OLS for your wonderful and tireless efforts!
-Priyanka Chandhok, Career Development Office
As a Teaching Fellow, I had to interact with a diverse group of students, including some with learning difficulties. Previously I never had academic engagements with students facing difficulties, therefore their experiences opened my eyes to newer ways of learning and teaching. It also made me a better teacher: I used visual aids or providing written explanations, something I would not normally do. I would also take out more time to explain class material to these students, and would check-in on them regularly. I think my efforts and theirs is what made their journey in the class a success. The Office of Learning Support assisted me in these efforts by not only constantly keeping a track of the students, but also by providing me with information on how different disabilities affect people in different ways; thereby allowing me to adopt individual strategies to cater to their needs. The Office would also keep me informed if any of the students are facing difficulties and were not able to communicate it to faculty. I wish them all the best, and am glad that such an institution exists at a University as diverse as Ashoka.
-Zainab, Teaching Fellow