I think the first thing you need to do to understand my story is to understand me. I’m incredibly gifted. I graduated from UW Whitewater in 2019 with a Masters in Business Administration, having achieved a 4.0 GPA. I was very involved on campus, becoming a part of several student orgs and taking a leadership role in many of them. However, I do have a disability. I struggle with recognizing social cues. I’ve been able to overcome this due mostly to the patience of my friends and the spectacular work of the members of the Center for Students with Disabilities department. Whitewater was a great place for me, in part because of how well recognized the university is for accommodations.
Last semester I had an incident with the university administration. In making a judgment, the university administration chose to disregard how my disability impacted me and stated repeatedly in their report the phrase “a reasonable person would have recognized (insert behavior)”. This despite being informed that I had a disability that impaired recognition of these behaviors for me led me to believe the decision was made with no consideration for my disability.
I write because at the end of this case, I went to assist students with disabilities within CSD. More than a handful of students I worked with relayed to me similar experiences they had, being disciplined for actions understandable through the eyes of someone with their disability. Which leads me to my opinion: while there are a lot of great people who are qualified to understand students’ disabilities and assist them, there is a communication gap between these professionals and the administration in charge of disciplining students.
Until this gap is filled, and until the realization of how disabilities impact student’s decisions is understood, the university will never be able to truly be as accommodating as the press would have you believe. We have the professional understanding in the Center for Students with Disabilities department. We just need to make sure the information is understood and accounted for by those making disciplinary decisions.
– Sean Gannon