Disability studies belongs at Luther

Well, you’ve all forced my hand. I’m back at it again, filling the opinion section with my own thoughts. My sadness regarding these circumstances is immeasurable, but I must press on.

There are a number of fields of study at Luther with little to no representation on campus, but I specifically want to call attention to the lack of courses that engage with disability studies. 

Associate Professor of English Lindsey Row-Heyveld’s “Superheroes and Disabilities” class is the only one I know to exist. If I’m not mistaken, she is also one of the few — if not the only — faculty member(s) who specialize in disabilities studies. 

Row-Heyveld is an amazing professor, and I encourage students to jump at any opportunity to take a class with her. But why does this institution only offer one disability studies course?  

For those unfamiliar with this field, the Society for Disability Studies defines it as a multidisciplinary approach for exploring “models and theories that examine social, political, cultural, and economic factors that define disability and help determine personal and collective responses to difference.” 

Additionally, disability studies is concerned with destigmatizing disease, illness, and impairment and placing current ideas of disability across cultures to analyze them in the broadest content possible. This field of study is a perfect fit in the context of a liberal arts college because it overlaps with virtually every other academic discipline in existence. 

If Luther is “committed to a way of learning that moves us beyond immediate interests and present knowledge into a larger world” and providing students “with an education that disciplines minds and develops whole persons equipped to understand and confront a changing society” like its mission statement claims, then carving out space for disability studies is a way to prove it. 

I realize this argument is likely unwelcome in the midst of low enrollment, a budget deficit, and rumored faculty cuts, but I genuinely don’t care. There’s still room for disability centric curriculum in every single department on this campus. 

It may be tempting for some to think of disability studies as a niche interest, but that idea couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Disability is a fluid state of being that everyone will experience at one point in their life or another. Luther can either equip students with the knowledge and compassion necessary to build a world where people with disabilities aren’t afterthoughts, or it can choose to maintain the ableist status quo. 

For the sake of students with disabilities like me, please make the right choice. 


Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.


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