Augie Access students not on homecoming ballot

Augie Access students not on homecoming ballot
Jessica Lamb

Augie Access seniors were not included on the royalty ballot for Viking Days earlier this school year.

While most Augie Access seniors said they did not mind, many students and staff said they hope the students in the program will be included in future years and that the Viking Days committee will make changes to be more inclusive.

Augie Access students were excluded because they are not degree-seeking students, and although they do walk at graduation and obtain a certificate, they don’t graduate with a degree like most other students.

Natalie Mohr, a junior and the only member of the Viking Days royalty committee, created this year’s ballots. The initial list was made using names from a list of all students who had applied to graduate this coming spring.

Mohr also added members of the 2019 freshman class who would not be graduating on time and those who had not applied for graduation.

“I think we generally did a really good job of it, but we can always do more,” Mohr said. “Nothing was intentional.”

The Augie Access program is also traditionally only three years long, so the program’s seniors would be grouped with the freshmen class of 2020 rather than the 2019 cohort, so the list of 2019 freshmen would not include the Augie Access seniors that were missed.

Mohr said she was surprised to hear that Augie Access students were not included on the ballot.

“We want to make sure they are included,” Mohr said. “We are in the process of writing our transition docs for the committee for next year, so this is a good thing to put in there to remind people to look into. Every year you want to improve Viking Days however you can, and this would be a good project for the next royalty committee.”

Some Augie Access seniors this year said they were okay with not being included. Samuel Wessels, an Augie Access senior, said he has “no interest” in Viking Days royalty. Wessels and some other Augie Access students said they didn’t even know they were excluded.

Despite varying thoughts on the issue this year, many said they feel their inclusion is an important issue to fix in the future.

Makena Schultz, who will be an Augie Access senior next year, said she would like to be royalty if it was possible.

Some students outside of Augie Access said they were disappointed they were unable to vote for their friends in the program.

Kaitlyn Bayman, a junior and peer navigator who works with Augie Access students, was one of the first to notice that the program’s seniors were not on the ballot.

“I started scrolling through, and I didn’t see any of their names,” Bayman said. “There were a couple of them I was thinking about voting for.”

Bayman said Augie Access students can already feel left out or forgotten.

“The school does a good job, but there is room for improvement,” Bayman said.

Other students and faculty said they see this as an issue of equality.

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are the most marginalized when it comes to representation at college campuses,” Jessica Lamb, the program director for Augie Access, said. “Augustana is at the forefront of breaking down that barrier, but I’m for them to break that barrier all the way.”

According to Lamb, one way Augustana can do this is by including Augie Access students as potential candidates for Viking Days royalty.

“Anywhere there are Augustana students involved, Augie Access students should be involved too,” Lamb said. “They are not less than.”