Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Fur-ward thinking: Revising ESA policies for an inclusive campus

As Augustana strives to create an inclusive environment for all students, it’s important to reassess policies surrounding emotional support animals (ESAs) to ensure they are accessible for all students, including those from out-of-state and different countries. The current ESA policy at Augustana College presents barriers that disproportionately affect these students. For this reason, it is critical to revise the policy to better accommodate all students and to foster a more welcoming and equitable campus community.

One significant obstacle lies in the requirement for students to provide a photo of their animal before approval. While this might seem like a straightforward task, it poses challenges for out-of-state or international students. These students may not have immediate access to their animals or may struggle to find a suitable place to keep them before obtaining approval for the animal to live in their dorm. 

This is made even more difficult as the process can take up to 30 days. This delay can create undue stress in the process of requesting an ESA and uncertainty for students who rely on the companionship of their ESAs for emotional support, as they may be unable to complete the process and have that needed support.

Furthermore, the requirement to register cats and dogs with Rock Island County before being allowed to keep them on campus presents an additional hurdle for students who are not residents of the area. Requiring residency before an animal can be registered can be impractical and exclusionary, particularly for students who have recently moved to campus or who come from different states or countries. 

Augustana could offer a program to help students from outside the county go through this process, such as providing educational resources on how and where to register an ESA. 

Requiring an animal be registered in Rock Island County is a restriction that complicates the process and undermines the principle of campus resources being equally accessible for all students. It is a requirement that is unfairly difficult for students from outside the county and thus unequal in its availability.

By enforcing such stringent policies that are exclusionary towards out-of-state and international students, colleges inadvertently push students towards non-compliance, leading to the presence of illegal animals in dorms. This not only violates housing regulations but also compromises the safety and well-being of students and staff. 

Illegal animals in residence halls could be combated by greater streamlining of the approval process and support services to ensure that students can meet the requirements without resorting to circumventing the rules.

Potential revisions to the ESA policy could be to implement alternative methods for verifying the presence of an ESA, such as accepting documentation from reputable veterinarians or animal shelters instead of a photograph. This would accommodate students who are unable to provide a photo immediately while still maintaining the necessary standards of verification.

Moreover, the requirement to register animals with local authorities should also be reconsidered to better reflect the diverse backgrounds of students. Instead of mandating county registration, colleges could give students an additional 30 days to register their ESA after arriving on campus before disciplinary action is taken. This would ensure that all students have equal opportunities to benefit from the presence of their ESAs on campus. 

Revising the ESA policy to better accommodate out-of-state and international students is not just a matter of convenience, but a fundamental principle of inclusivity. By recognizing and addressing the unique challenges faced by these students, colleges can uphold their commitment to providing equitable access to support services.

It’s time Augustana reforms its ESA policies to reflect the diversity of our student body and create a more welcoming and supportive campus environment for all.

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