Posted at: 05/04/2014 10:56 PM
Updated at: 05/05/2014 1:41 PM
By: Danielle Todesco, KOB Eyewitness News 4
It took Tariq Bashir four years to earn his associate degree. He's overcome major health issues that put a delay on his higher education.
Saturday was the moment Bashir has worked so hard for: To finally get his degree in front of his loved ones.
But it didn't happen how he imagined it would, and he feels robbed, all because he's in a wheelchair.
Tariq Bashir had waited a long time for his moment on stage, accepting his college diploma. But Saturday night at CNM's graduation ceremony, Bashir said his family and friends never saw that moment. "They didn't hear my name being called. They didn't see me getting my degree in hand. They just saw me rolling back to my sitting position," Bashir said.
Bashir said he wasn't allowed to go up the ramp to get on stage and accept his diploma. It was something he found out two weeks ago. He said the activities supervisor told him he wouldn't be able to go up the ramp because of safety concerns.
Bashir took the problem to the dean as well as the disabilities office. Then, he got an email from the administrative technical assistant at CNM, saying, "The decision to not allow wheelchairs onto the stage area stands."
"I'm not allowed to go up on stage to get my degree. I have got to go to the bottom of the stage and not get that shining moment like everybody else was getting," Bashir said.
Bashir said he was shocked that in all the previous graduation ceremonies for CNM, the issue hasn't been addressed before. Now he hopes no one else in a wheelchair has to feel as different as he felt.
Bashir has been in a wheelchair for 13 years. He was paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot in the back by an APD officer in 2000 when he was accused of killing a man. Bashir pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in that case. He has been working for years to turn his life around.
On Monday, CNM's Vice President of Services, Phillip Bustos, explained the decision in an email:
"With more than 600 graduates participating in CNM's Graduation Ceremony, it is a challenge for us to meet the expectations of every graduate at the ceremony. At Saturday's ceremony, for the first time, CNM debuted two large video screens to improve the visibility for each graduate's family and supporters. We regret that Mr. Bashir was disappointed in the individual accommodations at the ceremony and we will pursue an improved contract with Tingley Coliseum and EXPO New Mexico that includes a stage with better accommodations for those with disabilities."
CNM also says since the stage provided at Tingley Coliseum is not considered safe for wheelchairs, accommodations were made for Bashir to come in front of the stage to have his name called, picture taken, to appear on the video board and for the CNM president and governing board members to come down from the stage to shake his hand and congratulate him as he accepted his degree.