CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) - Students are preparing to start their fall semester at the University of Illinois, but two students say they do not feel welcome on campus.
Barrett Patton, a senior at the university, said he feels his choice to go back to school has been taken away from him.
Students with disabilities at the U of I are worried about their transition back to school. This is because the university sent an email in July stating the Beckwith Program will not reopen for the fall semester.
The Beckwith Program allows students with disabilities to go to college and have assistance by their side to help them navigate their daily lives.
When Zain Bando received the email detailing the closure of the program, he did not take it lightly.
“It's the only disability program, like an actual living learning community for students with disabilities in the entire country, which makes this entire situation even worse," Bando said.
Patton made a petition on Change.org urging the university to open Nugent Hall, where students like Barrett and Zain can live relatively normal lives. The petition worked and the residences were open to them, but now, they had a new obstacle in front of them.
The Beckwith Program would remain closed. This program pairs students with Personal Assistants, leaving students like Patton and Bando searching elsewhere for help.
Patrick Patton, Barrett's father, was not happy with the university.
"There was absolutely no reason to cancel the program," he said. "You know, (this is) never going to change how I feel about them. They just took something and for no reason, or no reason that they stated, denied students with a disability access."
Now, there is a new petition circulating. With over 3,000 signatures, the petition urges to university to reconsider and help students with disabilities have a smoother semester.
"Not offering the Beckwith program this semester has been the most heartbreaking impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for all of us," the U of I said in a statement. "But as with all of our students, the health and safety of the students in the Beckwith program has been and continues to be a top priority for the university."
As for Patton and Bando, they say they will be back on campus before classes start, but they hope things change by the time the semester starts.