Union Theological Seminary Student Life
 

Student Affairs

Disability Policy & Services

Union admits students regardless of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, national or ethnic origin, gender identities and expressions or disability to all the rights, privileges and programs generally accorded or made available to students at the seminary. It does not discriminate on the basis of any of these in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs or other programs administered by the seminary. Therefore, seminary policy ensures that no qualified student with a disability is subjected to discrimination. Students with disabilities are afforded full participation in the seminary's programs and activities. In response to a request made by a qualified student with a documented disability, the seminary will provide health and disability-related services including reasonable academic accommodations in order to ensure students with disabilities have equal opportunity to attain the same quality of education and be assessed for course content and evaluated, in the same manner as students without disabilities.

 

Disability Service Request Form

 

The Associate Dean for Student Affairs coordinates services for students with permanent and temporary disabilities, in accordance to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. These national civil rights laws are designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Eligibility requires that the disability be current and substantially limit a major life activity (e.g., walking, hearing, seeing, and learning). Impairment alone does not qualify as a disability that is protected under the ADA because not all impairment is substantially limiting to a major life activity. The seminary is responsible for determining the appropriate academic accommodation, adjustments or auxiliary aids. If a student disagrees with the Seminary’s decision, the student may refer to the Seminary’s grievance procedure for such disputes.

How Does A Student Request Health or Disability Related Services including Reasonable Academic Accommodations?


If a student needs health or disability related services including reasonable academic accommodations, the student should do the following:

Complete the Disability Service Request Form available online or from the Office of Student Life in AD 108, which includes providing clinical documentation outlining the disability and its duration, as well as limitations and anticipated need (See guidelines for medical documentation). If a disability is undiagnosed students can seek testing for appropriate documentation. A list of Union referrals is available.

Meet with the Associate Dean for Student Affairs Yvette D. Wilson, at (212) 280.1396 or at ywilson@uts.columbia.edu.

Guidelines for Medical Documentation:
    • The clinician must be qualified to make a diagnosis in the area of specialization (and cannot be a member of the student's family).
    • The evaluation should be written on professional letterhead, be current (usually within 6 months, but no more than one year) and it should contain the date of the last appointment with the student.
    • The clinician must clearly indicate the disability claimed to be covered under the ADA.
    • The documentation must clearly support the claimed disability with relevant medical and other history.
    • The evaluation must include a description of current treatments and assistive devices and technologies (if any), with estimated effectiveness in ameliorating the impact of the disability.
    • There must be a description of the functional limitations the student experiences as a result of the disability, which specifically addresses a post-secondary residential and educational setting.
    • The documentation must clearly support the need for the requested accommodation(s).

The Associate Dean for Student Affairs will review the documentation upon receipt and may consult with the student's clinician (if clarification is needed) upon receiving written consent from the student (the consent form is included in the disability service request form). The Associate Dean for Student Life will then meet with the student to determine what accommodations will be reasonable and/or appropriate. A professor does not have a legal right to demand access to the student's actual documentation, including testing scores, dates, or names of professionals providing such documentation. The United States Department of Justice has indicated that a professor, generally, does not have a need to know what the disability is, only that it has been appropriately verified by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs. The Associate Dean for Student Affairs may share information regarding a student’s disability with the Academic Dean as well as the Professor and Teaching Fellow of the course for which the student seeks accommodation, only when there is a compelling reason for disclosure. This may mean sharing with the Academic Dean as well as the Professor and Teaching Fellow information that a student has a documented disability and need for accommodation(s).

A student's professor(s) may also be consulted concerning the student's particular course requirements. Thereafter, the student's professor(s) and their teaching fellow(s) will be notified of the accommodations in writing by the Associate Dean for Student Affairs.

How Does A Student Appeal An Academic Accommodation If It Is Denied?


If a student’s request for reasonable academic accommodations has been denied, a student may appeal the decision of the Associate Dean for Student Life by petitioning the Academic Dean in writing within 15 days of being informed of the Associate Dean for Student Affairs' decision. The petition should include the original request, information about the accommodation offered by the Office of Student Affairs, if any, and the reason(s) that the student feels the accommodation offered does not adequately meet the student's disability needs. The Academic Dean will inform the student of a decision within 10 days. The Academic Dean’s decision is not subject to appeal.

How Does A Student Appeal Non-Academic Accommodations?


If a student believes the Seminary is in violation of Section 504 and ADA regulations, a student may appeal. If a student wishes to file a complaint, the student should contact the Associate Dean for Student Life, who will conduct the investigation of the complaint. All complaints will be investigated promptly.

Appeals of the Seminary’s decision may be directed in writing to the President of the Seminary.

The Seminary prohibits retaliation against any student who exercises their rights under the statutes, or because they have filed a complaint or taken part in the complaint resolution process.
For more information about services to students with disabilities, or to file a complaint about disability access, please contact the Associate Dean for Student Affairs.

Confidentiality


The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) regulates disclosure of disability documentation and records maintained by the Office of Student Life, which is not a part of the student's permanent academic record. Under this Federal law, prior written consent by the student is required before the Office of Student Affairs may release disability documentation or records.

FERPA provides numerous exceptions to the general requirement to seek student consent prior to releasing personally identifiable information from educational records. One of the exceptions authorizes the Office of Student Affairs to release information to any school official who has a "legitimate educational interest." Another exception is for health and safety emergencies.

Professors or other Seminary officials may request information about the impact of a student’s disability on her/his ability to learn. The Office of Student Affairs will only share information with other Seminary officials when appropriate and will carefully balance a student’s request for confidentiality and the request for additional, relevant information about the student. The Office of Student Life seeks to preserve the student’s wish to keep her/his disability information and status confidential. The Office of Student Affairs is extremely sensitive to this issue.

Under FERPA, students are also allowed to inspect and review their files maintained by the Office of Student Affairs. Students have the right to challenge any information contained in the files that is incorrect, misleading, or not accurate and request an amendment to this misinformation.

 

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