The Disability Resource Center (DRC) changed its paid notetaker position to a volunteer, non-paid position beginning Fall 2018. The new policy has prompted less students to contribute their notes and more students with disabilities to look for solutions elsewhere.
Last year, the DRC provided services to 1,447 students, approximately 6.5 percent of Cal Poly’s population, and has seen a 73 percent increase in demand since 2014, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier.
“With this increased demand and our budgetary constraints, the center no longer has the funding to provide payment for notetakers,” Lazier wrote.
Students were previously paid $50 per class each quarter, with this amount increasing to $55 per class when minimum wage changed to $11 in California. While the DRC can no longer afford to pay notetakers, they are still trying to figure out a way to incentivize notetakers, including raffles for University Store gift cards.
When biological sciences senior Arisa Faron’s close friend suffered a concussion playing lacrosse, she decided to become a notetaker for three of the classes they had together. The second time around, Faron decided to become a DRC notetaker simply for the money.
Without the money, Faron said she believes students may be more inclined to upload their notes to websites that pay, rather than the DRC.
“I definitely think that students will be less inclined to use the DRC as a form of sharing their notes with people because they’re not getting paid and they have those, like, venues to get paid for the same job,” Faron said. “I do think that the DRC [notetaker position] is a unique position because it’s specifically people in your class and it’s just a more tangible way to help people than doing it online.”
Other universities, such as Cal Poly Pomona and UC Santa Barbara compensate students for their notes based on the amount of units or courses. Other universities like UCSD, San Diego State University and CSU Fullerton have volunteer notetaker positions similar to Cal Poly.
Not only has the compensation for notetakers changed at Cal Poly, but the process of selecting volunteers has, as well. Previously, the DRC would provide students seeking notetaking services with names and summaries of prospective notetakers. However, in recent years, the DRC has instead opted to select the first volunteers for efficiency reasons, according to Lazier.
Despite lack of resources, the DRC is still obligated to meet student needs. Alternative solutions are available for students with disabilities, such as Echo Smartpens, which turn recordings into notes, or outside agency notetakers.
“The university is obligated to meet a student’s accommodation needs and ensure students have equitable access,” Lazier wrote. “The DRC’s primary goal is to make the implementation of approved accommodations and services as smooth and easy as possible to support the retention of students at Cal Poly.”