Simran P. Gupta & Kaydee Donohoo
Simmons was recently found in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Different sections of the act require affirmative action and nondiscrimination in employment, as well as civil rights for people with disabilities. In the context of Simmons, this act requires our school to provide accommodations for assignment extensions.
However, students have been consistently told that Disability Services cannot or does not provide these accommodations. This, of course, is illegal if those accommodations are recommended by a student’s healthcare provider.
The Co-Editors-in-Chief of The Simmons Voice find it astounding and shameful that the school has failed its students in this way. It is doubly shameful that this only came to light because the information was accessible through the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which publishes such reports as public information.
Students came upon this report when searching for Simmons in the database. Our school should communicate missteps such as this one to us immediately, as soon as they are notified. Students deserve to know what rights they’re entitled to, by law, in terms of their education..
The letter itself is eight pages long, and is dated Aug. 21, 2017. The Office of Civil Rights investigated a case involving a student in the online Master of Social Work program. The question was whether the college discriminated against her “by failing to provide her with appropriate academic adjustments to accommodate her disability.”
The OCR investigated under the authority of Section 504, which “prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs and activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance from the United States Department of Education.” Since Simmons College receives funds from the DoE, it is subject to the requirements and regulations of this section.
For a school that prides itself on being “student-centered,” this is a blow for us students.
Why isn’t the college doing its utmost to protect us? Why wouldn’t our professors and administrators want us to perform at our very best academically, even if that means working with us on any disabilities?
The student in question was lucky that she won the case, and was refunded for the classes that she had previously been failed in. Simmons had to “pass” her in all of those classes as well. What if, however, the student hadn’t had the means to pursue this case against Simmons?
From the student’s side, an occurrence like this results in a loss of trust towards the school.
We no longer trust that Simmons will take care of us. We no longer trust that they want to see us succeed. Simmons College’s failure to adhere to the Rehabilitation Act reads as a betrayal to us.
Breaking this law is a serious thing, and it tells us that protecting students with disabilities was not a priority for Simmons College.