Disputes and Discrimination
Students with disabilites are protected by federal, state and university antidiscrimination law and policy. If a student believes they have been discriminated against by a member of Western's community (this includes faculty) the student can seek informal and/or formal intervention. This can range from an informal dialogue and resolution effort by the faculty member and a DRS Administrator, to as wide ranging as a Washington State Human Rights or federal Office of Civil Rights investigation.
What are some simple Best Practices for avoiding a discrimination complaint involving my class?
The Top Ten...
- Provide an accommodation statement on your course syllabus. DRS suggests: Students with disabilites requesting accommodation in this course must provide verification of accommodation needs from the disAbility Resources for Students (DRS) office at the beginning of the academic term in person during office hours or by appointment. The DRS office is located in Old Main 110, (360) 650-3083 and their website can be found through Western's Homepage.
- Review your syllabus with your class orally and mention the DRS statement.
- If a student approaches you requesting accommodation without verification, remind them about your syllabus and refer them to DRS immediately.
- Focus discussion on the content of the course, course expectations, and accommodation arrangements. Avoid inappropriate comments, judgments, innuendo, or perspectives that can be misconstrued as discriminatory in thought, intent or practice.
Point to PonderFaculty have amazing power. You can inspire, enlighten, motivate, critique, expect excellence, encourage deeper thought, mentor, and model professional behavior. But a few judgmental words about disability that are irrelevant to your course content can have a very negative impact on how a student with disability perceives themselves, perceives the subject matter, or perceives you (and your actions).
- Communicate with the student about accommodations, and document what you have decided upon.
- Be flexible. Accommodations are not always perfect every time. If adjustments are needed during the term, be flexible with the student and involve DRS staff to help create solutions that support the goals of your course and the student's needs.
- With the first possible hint of difficulty, dispute, uncertainty about an accommodation or interaction contact DRS immediately and ask to speak with an Accommodations Counselor. Immediate efforts at informal resolution have proven incredibly effective.
- Grade/evaluate DRS students with the same method and standard as their peers and maintain clear, measurable objective records.
- Keep a balanced concept of the DRS student. After all, they are "students" first, with a variety of interests including perhaps your subject matter (or not). DRS students can become just as overcommitted or under committed as their peers, are developing socially and professionally habits that will serve them in their future. Additionally, they experiment, make good and bad choices, and are growing their concepts of self daily.
- If your course is rigorous, keep it rigorous for everyone. Students with disabilities who invest in their education develop great respect for instructors who challenge their skills, creativity and intellect. When they have worked hard, been treated fairly, and treated equally with their peers, they respect themselves for a job well done and respect the importance that persistence plays in the life-long learning process.