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In effort to increase participation, Barnard Office of Disability Services begins paying student note takers this semester

Barnard’s Office of Disability Services will now pay students who share their notes with classmates in need of note-taking accommodations $100 per class in an effort to increase participation.

The office, which operates separately from Columbia’s ODS, provides services—such as exam accommodations and proctoring, note taking, housing accommodations, access to emotional support or service animals—for 426 Barnard students with disabilities.

Barnard’s ODS currently employs 49 students as note takers. But with four weeks left before final examinations, ODS Director Carolyn Corbran said there are still 77 other classes for which students have filed a request for a note taker that has not been filled.

Barnard’s note-taking program previously operated on a volunteer basis, compared to Columbia, which pays student note takers $250 per class. Corbran said the office had been considering paying note takers since the summer of 2014, when she first joined the office, in order to encourage more students to participate.

“We started to realize that we could probably get stronger notes and stronger note takers if we would be able to offer an incentive of a payment,” Corbran said.

Despite its intentions, both Corbran and students in need of accommodations said the new payment incentive has not yet lead to a tangible increase in student participation or interest.

Note takers are hired by either the Barnard or Columbia ODS office, depending on the college in which the the student in need of an accommodation is enrolled, not where the class is offered. To receive a note taker, registered students must provide a list of their classes to the office at the beginning of the semester and then give a hard copy of a note-taking recruitment form to each of their professors.

The form typically gets passed around during class, allowing students interested in providing this service to sign up. The student in need of the accommodation then returns the completed form to ODS, which contacts the students to complete a note-taker application and submit a sample of their notes.

While Corbran said the currently unfulfilled requests are due to students in need of accommodations not submitting their note-taker recruitment forms to the office, students interviewed said that the number of students actually interested in being note takers is still low. Furthermore, not all of the students who sign up on recruitment forms follow through with the application process.

While Corbran said that ODS works to process completed note-taker forms within two weeks, Kiyun Kim, BC ’18, who has a neuropsychological impairment which impacts her ability to take notes and has used notetakers through the office since fall 2015, said she waited more than a month between submitting a completed note-taker recruitment form and receiving a note taker for a course this semester, leaving her to study for a midterm without notes.  

Still, by paying note takers, both Corbran and Kim said they believe students will receive notes more consistently and of greater quality, since note takers will only be paid once all notes for the semester have been successfully submitted.

"There was no way of holding people accountable, no way of making sure that people actually do submit their notes," Kim said. "This semester, the note taker I have for my classes has been uploading their notes regularly. I hope she keeps doing that.” | @AubriRuth


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