In October, The Chronicle reported that nearly twenty percent of college students in the United States had a disability, but current teaching practices make their lives in academia unnecessarily challenging. The op-ed goes on to ask instructors to update their teaching practices to be more inclusive and understanding. At the University of Pennsylvania's law school, the director of student equity, Jamiella Brooks, calls this preoccupation with holding onto conventional teaching practices “the rigor wars.”
The Rigor Wars
According to Kevin Gannon at Queens University of Charlotte, there are two types of “rigor” – logistical and intellectual. Logistical rigor makes instructors cling to stringent policies about when and how work is created, presented, and elevated. But intellectual rigor pushes students to study intricate ideas and advance their own thoughts. He believes courses should be intellectually rigorous, but they don't need to be logistically rigorous.
Many professors are suspicious of students. If they are absent from class, turning in assignments late, or requesting recordings of class they must be lazy, unmotivated, or taking advantage of the system. This position targets disabled students and encourages the idea that disabled students are just trying to deceive their professors.
The Accommodations Model Supports Toxic Rigor
At most universities and colleges, the current model for accommodations requires students to provide extensive – and expensive – proof of their disability before offering them logistical help that provides them with an equal opportunity for education.
Even with all the proof they must provide, professors still have this internal dialogue that tells them that disabled students have it easier. When disabled students exhibit behavior the professor believes is a conduct issue, like missing classes or deadlines, they are more inclined to report them for it, which forces disabled students to endure unnecessary hearings to defend themselves.
Updating Archaic Policies
Disabled students deserve to have their logistical needs met without suspicion or having to jump through hoops to prove that they need the accommodation. In the article linked above, the author suggests several ways to update the strict policies that professors cling to, such as:
- Using an attendance policy to check in with students who are absent frequently rather than using it to dock their grades
- Allowing students the ability to request extensions without requiring a particular reason for it
- Offering class recordings to all students – not just the ones with disability-accommodations
But to truly update these strict policies, professors must start believing, and believing in, their students.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
When you go to college, you deserve to show up exactly as you are. Disabled students should not have to deal with suspicious professors questioning their disability requirements. If your school is slow to roll out accommodations for you, you are unsure how to request accommodations, or your professors are making it unnecessarily difficult for you to participate in your own educational experience, an attorney-advisor can help.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have spent years helping disabled students around the country not only get the accommodations they require but defend themselves when archaic professors report them for conduct that is out of their control. Call 888-535-3686 today or schedule a consultation online. Attorney Lento and his team can help.