Students petitioning for Eliza Schaafâ€™s reinstatement into a ceramics class experienced a slight victory today.
Administrators allowed Schaaf to work in the ceramics studio for the remainder of the day to complete her final project, a hand with the world in its palm.
Schaaf had been auditing a ceramics class for six weeks when she received a letter from Dean of the College of Arts and Science Alissa Arp informing her that she would no longer be a student at Southern Oregon University Nov. 9. The letter stated Schaafâ€™s limited ability to participate in class independently and intellectually significantly altered the course.
The administration’s decision to withdraw Schaaf sparked outrage amongst students. Mollie Mustoe, Schaafâ€™s classmate, is petitioning against the administrationâ€™s decision to withdraw Schaaf. She has gathered signatures from all 19 students in the ceramics class and an additional 40 letters of support. Mustoe also has worked with the Associated Students of SOU Senator Paul Jenkins to pass a resolution of support for Schaaf Tuesday.
The studentsâ€™ work has received little recognition from administrators until now. Schaaf could not conceal the smile lighting her face as she worked quietly and diligently to paint the hand she had begun two weeks ago.
â€œI am really excited,â€ Schaaf added.
â€œIt feels good,â€ Deb Evans, Schaafâ€™s mother, said. â€œSheâ€™s missed being in here.â€
Evans appreciates being allowed in the studio, but she hopes that her daughter also will be allowed to attend the last two classes of the term.
â€œShe takes pride in finishing what she starts,â€ the mother said.
Schaaf and her parents have requested to meet with administrators four times, but have not received a reply. The family will not receive any more information until Monday, Evans says.
â€œThere is enough rejection in the world, this should not be an area to fight in,â€ Evans said choking back tears. â€œNothing comes close to what we have gone through these last 10 days.â€
Schaafâ€™s mother says she wishes Arp would have taken the time to see her daughter for who she is as a person.
â€œStop for a minute seeing policies and procedures,â€ Evans said. â€œYou will see that a little graciousness and kindness goes a long way.â€
Arpâ€™s decision was not easy for the family to digest.
â€œShe always planned to go to SOU,â€ Evans said. â€œShe developed to whole persona, shirts, sweaters, everything.â€
Schaaf and her parents take comfort in the letters of support pouring in from students and the community.
â€œWe see them as hopeful and reaffirming,â€ Evans said. â€œWe love to hear their voice, even if the administration does not listen.â€
Evans believes SOUâ€™s failure to listen to the students will result in major problems in the future.
â€œPeople want a voice and they want to be listened to,â€ Evans said. â€œAny school that does not do that will run into trouble.â€
â€œHow many voices does it take for [administrators] to realize thatâ€™s not okay?â€
Schaaf is taking the situation in stride. She plans to continue her education at Rogue Community College in Medford.
â€œItâ€™s something we are talking about more and more,â€ Evans said. â€œItâ€™s about going where you are welcomed now.â€
The fun-loving, curious and compassionate student plans to pursue her other passions. Schaaf wants to take a writing class at RCC and author a childrenâ€™s book. She already has penned a short story about a little girl and her grandfatherâ€™s trip to New York City while at Ashland High School.
Her daughterâ€™s resilience is something everyone can learn from, Evans said.
â€œEliza has always had the courage to rise above,â€ she said. â€œThatâ€™s why the best gift she can give to the world is herself.â€
The family is not exactly sure what the positives of the situation are yet, but they are confident good will come from it all.
â€œYou can be a glass half empty or a glass half full,â€ Evans said. â€œWe choose to be half full.â€