AHEAD responds to ACADEME article
The November/December 2005 Issue of ACADEME Magazine from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) featured an article titled “Disability Law and Your Classroom” by Dr. David Cope, University of North Alabama. You are welcome to read this article, as well as the balance of the content in the issue on the AAUP website at:
While discussion of disability and disability service in higher education is most welcomed in the professional arena, and diverse points of view are recognized as valuable in the formation of elevated philosophical conversation, assertions were made in the article that are inconsistent with what AHEAD knows to be accurate.
To that end, AHEAD has submitted the following letter to the Editor of ACADEME for inclusion in the next issue (January/February 2006) of the magazine.
AHEAD has long-standing respect for the AAUP and their flagship publication, ACADEME, and looks forward to the publishing of this letter to the editor submitted on AHEAD’s behalf in their next issue.
Below is the text of the letter to the editor submitted for publication on behalf of AHEAD.
Regarding Disability Law and Your Classroom
Like Professor Cope (“Disability Law and Your Classroom”), The Association on Higher Education And Disability (AHEAD) does not believe that Section 504 or the ADA were intended as a one-way street. We, too, encourage faculty to take an active role in the accommodation process but disagree with Professor Cope’s analysis.
AHEAD supports establishing appeals processes that include a faculty member’s right to appeal accommodations that are inappropriate within the context of their course. However, Cope’s implied message that faculty have the expertise to evaluate the impact of the student’s disability is misguided.
Cope selectively focuses on the definition of disability, choosing to ignore case law (Wynne v. Tuft University School of Medicine, 932 F. 2d 19, 26, Guckenberger v. Boston University, 974 F. Supp. 106 and PGA TOUR, INC. V. MARTIN 532 U.S. 66) that identifies appropriate roles in the accommodation process. Faculty, hired for their disciplinary expertise, should evaluate accommodations for conflicts with the fundamental goals of their courses-- an evaluation that does not require a review of the student’s potentially sensitive disability documentation.
Most institutions have assigned the role of evaluating students for conditions that qualify as a disability to a specific office that employs individuals with expertise in determining disability and potential accommodations as warranted under the law.
When faculty find that recommended accommodations are at odds with essential elements of their courses an objective grievance process should be initiated. If it is found that the accommodations would pose such a fundamental alteration, the accommodations should not be implemented and an alternative means of providing full access should be explored by the instructor, student and disability services office.
For a balanced view, AHEAD recommends “Making Accommodations:
The Legal World of Students with Disabilities” by Paul Grossman, Academe Volume 87, Number 6, 2001. (AAUP website).
Stephan J. Hamlin-Smith
Executive Director, AHEAD