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Thread: Is it Discrimination?

  1. #1

    Is it Discrimination?

    A long vent. Not sure why I am posting it. Maybe somebody else has had to deal with this before and can advise me what they did. It’s long and unfocused post. Sorry.

    You know my biggest fear to going back to school was that I wouldn’t be able to get around in my chair and fit in elevators. Physical barriers. But it’s the barrier of ignorance on the part of some of the university's staff that has caused me nothing but frustration, sadness, and humliation. And had seemingly brought my hopes of going back to school crashing down.


    Next Tuesday I was due to start an online course for a graduate program I was admitted to in the spring. I thought everything was done and on track for the semester to begin. On Monday I found out I had been de-registered from my course for non payment. By mistake it turns out as my fees were covered by a government grant. When I tried to find out why this happened, I was sent like a ping pong ball between 3 offices at the university and 1 government department. With none of them able to explain why. When I tried to re-register for the course I was told it was full and "anyways it would have been just too late even if a spot was open." Nearly everything else is full. What courses still have space I am either not interested in or I lack the pre-requisites. When I got frustrated about this, my disability got flung in my face.

    "we have done all we can for you and even made exemptions based on your disability. We’re sorry you are so disappointed with our attempts to accomodate you.”

    There was no accommodations or special treatment asked or given during the admission and registration processes. I did not need any for that and there was no need for them to offer.

    So I was basically left to feel they had done all they could for me and I was being ungrateful. The fact that I followed all the directions I was given when it came to my funding and course registration, yet am now left with nothing (my funding will be pulled unless I get enrolled in a course) seemed not all that important.

    Another issue:

    My government funding gave me the option to enroll with "full time equivalent status." Meaning I could enroll in a 40% course load and still be considered a full time student for the purposes of funding and access to campus services and student benefits. In my province a 60% course load is considered full time. Being given this status does not mean that I am limited to a 40% course load. Just that the option is there for a lighter course load if needed. The choice is fully mine as to how much of a load to register in.

    The course I was de-registered from was 6 credits, which put me right at the 40% course load. I found an alternate course that I wasn't fully happy with but would have been fine with taking as a replacement. It was 7.5 credits, which put me above the 40% load. I knew this meant a bigger work load but I was fine with that. I was still only sitting at 50% of what a "normal course load" is considered at this school (15 credits).

    I went online and registered in the 7.5 credit course. Later that afternoon I got a call from the graduate program office saying they had removed me from the second course. Why? I asked. Is it full? No. Am I missing a pre-requisite? No.

    The answer went something along the lines of this:

    As a disabled student you have been recommended not to take more than a 40% course load. We are going to follow that recommendation.

    wtf? It's not a recommendation but a choice given the student!

    When I pressed the grad program on this they got very short with me and told me to contact the fees office if I felt my grant had been given in error.

    Again, wtf?

    So basically that course was available for every other student in the program to register in. Provided they did not have the 40% full time equivilent load status written on their file, if I follow their logic. Which is only given if you have a documented disability. Thinking about this last night is what turned my sadness and thoughts about giving up on the situation into anger. Extreme anger. This is just not right.

    There were a few more insults. As I repeatedly emailed to all these departments that I could not understand how any of this happened and told them how frustrated I was, one program administrator wrote back

    "Do you have a helper or somebody who can help you handle things better next time?” This is still taking the line that I somehow screwed up with deadlines and providing proof my of grant. Even though an email trail shows that is not true. But now they are just ignoring me.

    The last slap was when it was suggested to me that a delay in my funding coming was the root of the problem (it wasn't I checked the dates, the funding was approved well in advance) and that "this is what you need to deal with if you are going to rely on "disability grants" to pay your tuition. Next time apply for a student loan.

    Whether it was a grant for students with disabilities was totally irrelevant. All the government educational grants and loans, regardless of why they are being given, come from the same place and follow the same procedures and timelines.

    So it was like well you know, if you weren't disabled NONE of this would have happened.

    So it's my fault.

    The post-script to this story is I had a wonderful advocate in the university's Disability Services office last spring when I was trying to apply to the program. Unfortunately she is off on leave until October. The other person who worked with her recently quit. The university has hired somebody new who is now covering both case loads while trying to learn her job. I sent an email explaining my situation and she replied "it will be a few weeks until I can meet with you." Since classes start on Tuesday that leaves me out of luck. Not that I am even sure she could have helped.

    Options here are to sit out this semester and then risk running into funding issues for January or find a undergrad level online course at this university or another and try to get into it. But the late date makes me think that is not going to work.

    Or just give up on school altogether. Which I don’t want to do. But am not sure I can handle going through something like this again.

    I feel so humiliated. Nothing like having your disability used against you.
    Last edited by orangejello; 08-29-2008 at 10:28 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mona~on~wheels's Avatar
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    Ohhhhhh that makes me so mad!!!
    It's like they're trying to get you to quit!
    Don't do it! You had a right to each class you signed up to.
    This is all their mess ups trying to be made to look like your's.
    It's the way the world is now. No one owns up to their mistakes.
    Don't jeopardize your funding either.
    I'd call them on the 2nd class. Does it have to be exactly 40%?
    Is there no counselor that can help?
    Don't let them defeat you OJ. They were wrong.
    Keep trying to figure a solution that works.

    {hugs}

  3. #3
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    Oh frig. This has me furious.

    What do you want to do about it?

    This is discrimination.

  4. #4
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    OJ, add me to the people who are so angry about this. I know nothing about Canadian law, but it just doesn't seem this could be legal, to say nothing of ethical. Do you know anyone in power in your province? The reason I ask is because years ago I ran into a situation that had nothing to do with education, but still had everything to do with overt discrimination. One of my high school teachers had become a state senator and I called him. He gave them holy hell on the phone and it was enough for an instant reversal in their original decision. Don't let these creeps win in the big scale. Even if you have to wait till next semester when the woman you know returns (which would suck) do not let them take this away from you. I hardly know what to say beyond how sorry I am that on top of everything else you have to deal with level of stupidity.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Ashley's Avatar
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    is this a university with a campus holding classes along with internet courses? This is what it sounds like you are saying but just wanted to clarify. I had a friend who was trying to get a degree through an online university that was a pain in her ass about payments and ultimately threw her off a semester. An established place of higher education had no right to do what they have done to you. I know it's nerve-racking, tiring, and time consuming, but get in touch with who you need to for this to be righted and the university to be held accountable. I don't know what that entails, but you can do it!! Don't let them push you around.
    Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.
    -Dorothy Thompson

  6. #6
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    I don't know if it is discrimination, or simply incompetence, but either one is unacceptable! Whether you continue here or not, I think you should argue this. A good start might be a formal complaint, outlining the time line and the details. Sent registered mail to someone who all those you have been emailing with report to! A nice article in the paper is always nice too!

    I think you should follow up with the overworked advocate who is filling in for yours as well, she probably can't do anything about this semester, but it might help in the future, and she might have some suggestions. Also meet with your own advocate when she comes back about this, whatever the status is at that point. She needs to know what happened.

    This should not have happened.

    Another thought. At a lot of schools, the professor has the ability to override "full" classes, and allow specific students to enroll, even though it makes there class 1 over. You might want to contact him.
    T7-8 since Feb 2005

  7. #7
    Senior Member lynnifer's Avatar
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    Contact your local politician or newspaper ... seriously.

    They had NO RIGHT to say what they did to you. So let them eat their words in the public domain.

    I would!
    Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

    T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

  8. #8
    Sheeit. I agree with all the above.
    I definitely see it as a blatant kind of discrimination. What's in their miniscule minds is "I don't know what she thinks she's trying to do, she'll never be able to do anything by herself anyway."
    Problem is, they've played it so that things happened extremely late so the situation is difficult to mend.
    Stephanie's suggestions seem reasonable to me.
    Damn, I'm so sorry this is happening.
    - Richard

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by orangejello
    You know my biggest fear to going back to school was that I wouldn’t be able to get around in my chair and fit in elevators. Physical barriers. But it’s the barrier of ignorance on the part of some of the university's staff that has caused me nothing but frustration, sadness, and humliation. And had seemingly brought my hopes of going back to school crashing down.
    Orangejello, I am really sorry you are running into this wall of stupidity and condescencion... im quite familiar with the feeling of being humilliated and given no real options by stupid bureaucrats in Universities... I wish i could provide some solution, some practical advise, but since i dont know the particular situation, i dont know what your specific next step should be.
    However, there are a few suggestions i would like to share with you. As i said, i have been in similar situations quite often, and identified some common characteristics or possible interpretations for each one. I find that if i understand -or try to understand- the true motivations for people to adopt these stupic positions, then i can sometimes push them to do what i need, or at least, i feel that it is really NOT about me having a disability...

    Quote Originally Posted by orangejello
    "we have done all we can for you and even made exemptions based on your disability. We’re sorry you are so disappointed with our attempts to accomodate you.”
    Quote Originally Posted by orangejello
    There was no accommodations or special treatment asked or given during the admission and registration processes. I did not need any for that and there was no need for them to offer.
    The people (and i mean the particular individual/s) who wrote that probably meant that they are pissed off that they had to do a bit (even a tiny bit) of extra paper work or coordination between offices. They have done "all they can", so they really dont want to do anything else. By mentioning that they EVEN made accomodations for your disability, they are saying to themselves that those accomodations were probably above and beyond of what their tasks at their administrative posts require... I know it is hard to believe, but there are people like that, people who ravel in doing exactly the same thing everyday, the same tasks, and feel annoyed and personally afronted when they have to do some research, coordinate with other people, etc... That is their f***** choice, but the problem here is that they are dealing with your registration.

    Quote Originally Posted by orangejello
    So I was basically left to feel they had done all they could for me and I was being ungrateful.

    Quote Originally Posted by orangejello
    So it was like well you know, if you weren't disabled NONE of this would have happened.
    So it's my fault.

    Yes, that is what they wanted. They wanted to shift the unconfortable feelings they had about not doing something they just either did not know how to do (arrange things in a very particular way for a disabled student so that she can pursue her education in a way that is the most convenient for her), or just did not feel like doing. They wanted to shift this responsability to YOU, for having such an inconvenient characteristic: a disability...! You are right, they are using your injury as an excuse, because they whole administrative adjustments they have to make just annoy them too much.

    Quote Originally Posted by orangejello
    The answer went something along the lines of this:
    As a disabled student you have been recommended not to take more than a 40% course load. We are going to follow that recommendation.
    wtf? It's not a recommendation but a choice given the student!
    When I pressed the grad program on this they got very short with me and told me to contact the fees office if I felt my grant had been given in error. Again, wtf?
    Again, trying to understand where these idiots are coming from: it sounds to me as if they are afraid you can not deal with the workload and dont want to run into a situation where you have to withdraw or take incompletes, specially since it is your first term... If that happens, they would probably have to do MORE PAPER WORK, and refund your government agency, or put the funds on hold, etc.. i have had to take health leave a couple of times, and if you have been awarded a scholarship for example, they have to go into very complicated procedures to "freeze" the money.
    Unfortunately, they are making a decision for you, a decision that affects your funding, and it is very unfair. Does it have anything with you? not really, it has to do with their unwillingness to take a risk and their lack of competence and active avoidance of potential future work.

    What could you do now? I dont know if it is still possible to talk to them about reversing either the decision on course enrollment or the 40% course load. If there is still room to argue for either of those, I would contact first the head of the Register or rather the Head of the Graduate School (it really has to be the head or deputy). At this point i would not email them, but make an appointment and talk to them in person, or over the phone if it is not possible to go. I would make a very clear exposition on how the staff at the registration office has mishandled the situation, and ask not for an explanation as to why this happened, but for a solution to the problem.

    As Sjean said, it is a very good idea to contact the Professor of the class you originally wanted to enroll in, explain the situation and why you wanted to get into his/her class in the first place, and if whether they would consider making an exception and let you register. They may say that it is OK with them if you sort it out with the register or the graduate office. So then, when you meet with the head of the graduate school, you can tell him/her that it is just their bureaucratic incompetence preventing you from acquiring that knowledge (you may want use nicer words.. but not too much nicer).

    Along the same lines, contacting your Head of Department (or even better, any professor that you may have talk to or emailed with when you decided to enroll in this particular program) is a very good idea. Explain the situation, and again, express you indignation that things got mishandled by the admin staff in such a lousy way. If you were admitted to the graduate program, it is because YOUR DESERVE to be there. The Department WANTS you. You want to study, they want to teach you and may be surprised as to what has happened. If you decide to do this, do it before you meet the Graduate School.

    Quote Originally Posted by orangejello
    "Do you have a helper or somebody who can help you handle things better next time?”


    ... just try to get over this one, it is not worth it. Just for the record, the person who said it was directly attacking you. Why would she/he do that? Was she/he trying to end a conversation where she could not provide honest answers and made him/her unconfortable? Did she/he truly not understand the situation?

    Quote Originally Posted by orangejello
    I feel so humiliated. Nothing like having your disability used against you.


    I am so sad and angry that this has happened to you. I hope you will be able to see that the fact that you have an SCI should not allow other people to be incompetent. And I say should because unfortunately in many cases it will... but then, time and experience provide tools to deal effectively with difficulties such as the one you are encountering. Hang in there Orangejello, please do.. Think about all the great mind-expanding opportunities that this graduate program will give you, either now or next semester.. From the little I know you, i am sure you have soo many things to share with other people.

    Finally, if you feel you are too tired or sad to continue fighting for this one, that is OK too. One has to learn to pick the battles that are possible to fight given the (emotional and physical) resources one has at that moment. That is an act of kindness and compassion to oneself and it should be the the first consideration always.

    PS: sorry about my grammar, i am not a native english speaker and it shows when i am angry or agitated !
    Last edited by agnes; 08-30-2008 at 09:21 AM.

  10. #10
    Arrrgh !!!! Wish I had more, hang in there OJ.

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