UT Senate proposes centralized testing center to help better accommodate students with disabilities

Sarah Schleede

For students with disabilities, student athletes or students who require assistive examination devices, exams can be especially hard. The UT Senate of College Councils is hoping to change that by establishing a centralized testing center.

“It’s something the University really needs, with a campus of over 40,000 students, a lot of whom have their own accommodations that they need for their education to be as successful as any other student could be at the University,” said David Jenkins, Senate policy director and co-author of Senate Resolution 1714.

The legislation, introduced Thursday night, proposes the creation of a centralized testing center housed in the Perry-Castaneda Library, which already “has multiple large, isolatable spaces well equipped for accommodating large numbers of students in quiet environments,” according to the legislation. When not hosting tests, the space would be available for regular student use.

“The PCL is right in the thick of student gatherings on campus,” said Jenkins, an English junior. “It has all the necessary equipment for students with disabilities, and it has accessibility via ramps and automatic doors.”

Services for Students with Disabilities, or SSD, in the Student Services Building is the only space on campus that offers accommodations for those in need of special adaptive equipment or services for testing. According to the legislation, there are 3,000 alternative testing requests per semester.

“(This legislation is) not only helping the workload in SSB, it’s also helping student workers and student athletes who have to retake exams because there is no centralized place to do that right now,” said Senate President Austin Reynolds, an English senior and co-author of S.R. 1714.

Due to limited space, students are advised by the SSD website to request testing accommodations such as extended testing time or a reduced distraction environment through their professors instead.

“This was the right time to get … student feedback to really push this as a need on campus,” said Lu Barraza, advertising senior, Senate vice president and co-author of S.R. 1714.

Senate has been working on the legislation since spring 2017, and the designation of a centralized testing center has been a top priority within administration for a long time, Jenkins said.

“No one should be less able to take exams in a timely manner because of a disability they have no control over, a hectic schedule because they’re dedicated to another part of this University or their general life hindrances that they have to overcome,” Jenkins said.