Saturday, January 20, 2007

Take Note of Black Lightning, DSP

I'm very excited for this semester. One of the reasons for this is that I'm only taking two actual science courses to finally get my Cal science degree. Another reason: for one of my classes, Bacterial Pathogenesis (MCB C103), for which I can honestly say I have a huge interest in, Black Lightning is transcribing course notes.

Black Lightning is the University's only authorized note-taking service. Students pay $49 for semester-long access to lecture course notes that are transcribed word-for-word. The price would be higher were it not for the the ASUC mandate that Black Lightning needs to break even with their profit and expenses. A cost-effective alternative to textbooks, definitely.

Upon perusing the Berkeley livejournal, I came across an entry from a student who needs a notetaker for a math course not offered by Black Lightning. The student explains that the notetaker would be paid by the Disabled Students' Program (DSP) at Cal, and gives a few other startling facts:

I understand DSP is underfunded, as is everything. Still...Black Lightning pays $30 per hour for taking notes. That would have been $180 per week for my math class. In contrast, DSP paid $120 - for the semester. I find a system puzzling that will pay so much more for notetakers for students who aren't disabled.


There's a whole bunch of students who go weeks without notetakers, who legally have a right to the service for reasons like learning disabilities, neurological problems, or paralysis. I guess I shouldn't be ranting. But I get frustrated when my DSP rep tells me kind of nonchalantly that yeah, a lot of people had trouble finding notetakers last semester, not just me.


And I'm one of the *lucky* ones. I only need notes for classes in which there is visual material I can't type - like math or electrical engineering. I feel really sorry for students who can't use their hands at all.

Black Lightning transcribes many large classes on campus, but obviously cannot accommodate everyone in all classes, and therein lies the problem. Those who absolutely need note-takers have to wait for weeks to find them because transcribing notes is much more profitable when serving other more privileged students with Black Lightning. Regardless of student fee differences (Black Lightning charges a fee for note-taking and thus has more to pay employees), the ability to take notes is critical for any student's academic success, and more needs to be done by our university to make sure this privilege is shared with all students.

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