Tariq Bashir had been working for four years, battling major health problems all along the way, to receive his associate’s degree from Central New Mexico (CNM) Community College. But when graduation day finally came, his wheelchair prevented him from going on stage to receive his diploma with his classmates.
“It’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life,” Bashir told KOB News 4.
Bashir said that the friends and family who had gathered to share that proud accomplishment didn’t even see him get his diploma.
"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 had been told that he wasn’t allowed to go up the ramp because of “safety concerns.” When he questioned the college’s dean and disabilities office, he received an email 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 has been wheelchair-bound for 13 years after being shot in the back by a police officer in 2000, accused of killing a man. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the case and has worked hard since then 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."