You can never level the playing field

May 17, 2019, 7:00 p.m.

The student identified as “Sarah” has been given a first-name pseudonym. For more context on this decision, see the editor’s note at the end of this article.

“No laptops.”

For most students, it’s an easy ask — a common refrain among professors sick of pupils checking Facebook during discussion.

For Bryce Tuttle ’20, it’s a problem.

Tuttle’s dyslexia means he writes slowly and nearly illegibly. Typing helps him keep up. Last winter, as usual, he emailed an instructor his letter from Stanford’s Office of Accessible Education (OAE) outlining the disability accommodations the office had recommended for him, which included laptop use in class.

A few days later, Tuttle said, he received a phone call from his OAE advisor, who told him the instructor had a strict no-laptop policy and did not want to honor Tuttle’s accommodations.

“I could have made this a crusade or I could have just dealt with it and not used my accommodation, and I chose to do the latter,” Tuttle told The Daily. “I think lots and lots of students with disabilities choose to just do the latter when confronted with this kind of thing … I can either take this burden upon myself, or I can just ditch it.”

Stories like Tuttle’s have gotten more public attention since December, when another student, Sarah, opened up on her blog about her frustrations with Stanford’s disability accommodations. Her blog post — half narrative, half how-to guide for other students with disabilities — circulated on social media, among administrators and, in February, the entire student body, thanks to an email blast from student government leaders. Her highly personal post detailed, in part, the challenges she said she’s come up against at Stanford as a cancer survivor seeking academic aids like excused absences and extensions.

“I want all students to know that your professors do not know what they are talking about!” she wrote. “They do not know your rights. They will often tell you that an accommodation is not possible or reasonable when you have an absolute right to it.”

You can never level the playing field

As student leaders make disability advocacy a top priority and push for a disability community center, some with disabilities say they struggle to get all their needs met in the classroom — and worry that others less willing to advocate for themselves lack aid to which they’re entitled. Stanford’s OAE may provide guidance, but in the end, it is the faculty’s responsibility to weigh accommodations requests with course requirements and decide what’s reasonable. Navigating this gray area of “reasonability” in accommodations decisions can be challenging for students and faculty alike.

Tuttle described a difficult power dynamic when students request their prescribed OAE accommodations from unwilling professors. He compared it to a concept from political science, the “second face of power.”

It’s “a power dynamic that’s enforced to a degree where you don’t see any visible conflict,” he explained, “because it’s so clear who’s going to win that no one ever fights against it.”

“I think that’s a lot of the accommodations process,” he added. “Students with disabilities see these kinds of policies they see these professors who seem immovable. So they just don’t even try.”

Recommendations, not requirements

Tuttle came to Stanford in part because of the strength that he saw in the OAE accommodations process. He needed to know he was going to a college that would be accessible to him.

“I toured other colleges, and when I said, ‘I have learning disability, how are you going to help me with that?’ the admissions officers were like, ‘Oh, you know, I’m sure we [can] figure that out somehow,’” Tuttle recounted. “Stanford had a very clear answer. I met with people from the OAE, and I knew that there was a robust infrastructure. I knew I’d be able to get my readings done.”

Seventeen percent of the student body was registered with OAE for academic or housing accommodations at the end of the 2017-18 school year, though not everyone chooses to use their accommodations. That’s more than double the percentage of students registered in 2009-10.

Tuttle said OAE has been quite helpful, especially in setting him up with technology to turn long PDF documents into speech. But he’s found that the office cannot override professors who balk at accommodations they find disruptive.

All OAE letters reviewed by The Daily contained the sentence, “Based upon review of [the student’s] functional limitations, I am recommending the following academic accommodations.” The letters’ language of requests, rather than directives, underscores OAE’s role as a mediator between students and professors rather than an advocate for students alone.

Letters emphasize that “academic modifications should in no way compromise the essential elements” of a professor’s course. This is in line with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark civil rights law that says schools must provide accommodations for students with disabilities, unless the accommodations would cause an “undue burden” or change the fundamental nature of a program.

Though faculty at Stanford are “strongly encouraged” to reconsider attendance rules for students who may have to miss class due to disability, OAE affirms that professors “are under no obligation” to revise their attendance policies for these students.

Even the grievance process intended to resolve disputes over a student’s accommodations does not give faculty mandates. Instead, the process involves conversations with faculty to find a solution, explained Rosa Gonzalez, who oversees the grievance system in Stanford’s Diversity and Access office.

When a student’s dispute proceeds to a formal grievance process — which Gonzalez estimated happens in only five or so cases each year — Gonzalez gathers facts about the situation and writes a report. Disability law is vague about what constitutes a reasonable accommodation, she said, but she can draw on 30 years of case law for precedents.

In ambiguous situations where, say, a student wants to make up a problem set, Gonzalez typically talks with the professor about their options; she said she’s never encountered a situation where stronger intervention seemed necessary. Could the professor use another faculty member’s p-set? Could they have the student attest under Stanford’s Honor Code that they have not used others’ answers?

“I could see their being uncomfortable with doing that for more than one time,” she said. “But I would hope that that faculty member might sort of want to think out of the box to think, ‘How else can I assess what I’m trying to teach here.’”

Not worth it

OAE says it hears often from faculty who feel that a student’s OAE requests infringe too much on their class — faculty like Tuttle’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) instructor, who didn’t want to make an exception to his no-laptop policy.

Tuttle said that after multiple conversations with his OAE advisor, who acted as an intermediary between Tuttle and the teacher, he decided to drop the issue. The advisor offered to tell the instructor that Tuttle needed the accommodations. But Tuttle, who had already been trying to convey how important the laptop was, realized he didn’t want to force the instructor’s hand.

“It’s a small seminar course where he would be grading everything I was doing personally, and I didn’t want to deal with that dynamic for the rest of the quarter,” Tuttle said.

Feeling uncomfortable with the situation, Tuttle asked OAE if it could help him switch PWR classes. According to Tuttle, OAE said he should take up his request directly with the PWR department. The first week of the quarter was over, and Tuttle was concerned that by the time he switched classes he would be too far behind in his new class to catch up. He decided that fighting for his accommodation just wasn’t worth it.

“I have the liberty [and the] the luck to be like, ‘Okay well I can not take my accommodation and I’ll still probably pass,’” Tuttle said. “Other people don’t have that option.”

OAE said it is unable to speak to specific students’ situations. However, the office’s online guidance for faculty states that it’s “reasonable” to make an exception to laptop policies for a student with an accommodation.

OAE told The Daily it does not know how many students decide not to use their accommodations or set them aside after encountering resistance. Asked how frequently students drop requests due to worries about how an instructor will perceive them, OAE added in a statement that from its “experience with thousands of students, it is not an issue that students mention often.”

OAE said it typically refers students to academic advising or Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) when they need to switch class sections. It will communicate directly with a department when a need is “program or course-specific, and directly related to an access issue.”

“We make every effort to be responsive, act quickly, and resolve issues as they arise,” OAE wrote.

PWR Faculty Director Adam Banks, like OAE, said he could not comment on students’ situations for privacy reasons. But the program’s policy, he wrote in an email to The Daily, is that “accommodations recommended by the OAE should be provided when students share an accommodation letter with their instructor.” PWR encourages instructors to come to program leaders with questions on how to provide these aids, Banks added.

Tuttle recalled thinking that he, of all people, should be able to advocate for himself. He’s played a leading role in the push for a disability community center at Stanford. This school year, he’s serving in student government as director of disability advocacy.

Tuttle emailed his PWR instructor looking to talk his concerns over, and they turned to the issue one morning after a meeting to discuss Tuttle’s research topic. Tuttle recalled the instructor saying he could have used his laptop in class if he really wanted to, though the teacher preferred no computers. Tuttle, on the other hand, said it would be difficult to go against the teacher’s wishes given the inherent power imbalance in their relationship.

“When a professor asks the student not to use their accommodation, they’re not going to use it because they’re going to feel uncomfortable for the rest of the quarter,” Tuttle remembers saying.

“He just kind of refused to understand why what he did made me really uncomfortable,” he added.

Behind the blog post

Sarah, the student whose blog post sparked conversations around campus, echoed Tuttle’s worries that a professor’s resistance to an accommodation — even if they’re ultimately willing to budge — can effectively prevent a student from getting what they need. Sarah is the daughter of a college professor; she suspects she knows better than most how to navigate University processes and stick up for herself.

When decisions about disability accommodations are applied unevenly, she said, at the will of professors, that adds “additional layers of discrimination” — “some students come from backgrounds that have better prepared them to advocate for themselves.”

“Even if you get the accommodations, the fact that you have to fight so so hard for them is humiliating and degrading even in itself,” Sarah emphasized.

When Sarah ended up in the hospital in May 2017, she missed one of her organic chemistry labs. She’d come back to Stanford that winter after spending a year and a half fighting off and recovering from leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. She landed in the emergency room for a few days about once a month. Because she was suppressing an immune system that had turned against her, even a fever could turn into a major threat, and she had to go in preemptively each time an illness flared.

Sarah, whose OAE letter recommends she get extensions and not be penalized for absences, sought to excuse the missed lab. But chemistry lecturer Megan Brennan declined, saying Sarah would have to take a zero since she hadn’t requested the accommodation in advance. The lecturer had already waived two of Sarah’s problem sets in lieu of giving her extensions — the chemistry department had and continues to have a policy of removing excused assignments from a student’s grade calculations, rather than taking late submissions.

“Since you have already been excused for missed work, even though for legitimate reasons, I am starting to become uncomfortable with being able to say that you actually completed enough of the course if there is much more absences etc.,” Brennan wrote in an email to Sarah, which Sarah shared with The Daily. “I strongly urge you to talk with your UAR advisor, since even if I excuse the work, I am not entirely sure I am doing you a favor in the long run.”

In some ways, Sarah’s experience in organic chemistry shows how OAE can be an effective mediator between students and faculty, stepping in when they disagree. Emails Sarah provided show that the lab was excused more quickly and with more help from OAE than her blog post conveys: Brennan agreed to waive the lab four days later, after an OAE advisor intervened on Sarah’s behalf.

“Based on [Sarah’s] disability, I support her being able to make up lab work as possible,” wrote Sarah’s OAE advisor, Carleigh Kude, in an email to Brennan. “I am wondering if we can discuss the policy against lab makeups and determine if making an exception in [Sarah’s] case qualifies as a reasonable accommodation.”

In a follow-up email to Sarah later that day, Kude relayed that Brennan would not, in fact, penalize Sarah for the missed lab, though resource constraints meant she would not be able to make it up.

However, the waived lab did not alleviate Sarah discomfort with having to argue for an accommodation, nor did it address the more systemic problems she saw with OAE and faculty attitudes toward disability.

She had further questions about how her grade had been calculated, and she felt that Brennan’s tone hardened after she got the OAE involved in the lab dispute.

I gave you 100% of the participation points (quizzes, labs, problem sets, etc) because of the advantage others had of being able to put iclicker [points] into their bucket of points,” Brennan wrote back when Sarah questioned aspects of her overall grade, which would be raised several months later. “If you’d like — I can go back and recalculate using a more accurate accounting of those points — but your grade won’t be higher than a B-.”

Brennan said Sarah’s grade was difficult to calculate due to the challenges of meshing winter and spring quarter grading schemes, as Sarah took the course over two quarters.

That fall, months after Sarah had completed the class and after meeting with Brennan to discuss her concerns about her grade, Brennan reweighed Sarah’s grade based on the winter quarter grading scale. In an email to Sarah, she said that Sarah’s grade placed her at the B/B- border, and Brennan ended up giving her a B in the class.

If OAE was more proactive about setting standards with departments and professors, Sarah said, the stressful situation could have been avoided. She emphasized these issues when asked why she left OAE’s intervention and Brennan’s reversal on the lab score out of her blog post.

“There’s a difference when you walk into a room and someone says, you know, I’m here to support you … and if you have an absence let’s work it out and come to office hours,” Sarah said. “We’re not asking for people to make leaps and bounds, we’re just asking them to follow the law.”

Other students’ responses to Sarah’s blog post have indicated to her that she is not alone in receiving pushback on accommodation requests, especially in the chemistry department.

“I don’t know if I’m going to continue premed, chem, or just work on other things in more supportive departments,” one student wrote to her last month (he did not respond to outreach from The Daily).

Typically it’s fine if a student misses a lab for illness, Brennan wrote in an email to The Daily, as the lab would simply be excused. Absences become harder to excuse as they accumulate, she added, because students need certain training in lab techniques to move on safely to other chemistry courses.

“These situations are usually handled on a case by case basis and we do our best to be accommodating to students given their circumstances all the while being fair to the other students in our class,” Brennan wrote.

OAE wrote in a statement that the office follows an “interactive process” when talking to faculty about whether an accommodation is reasonable. OAE staff do not disclose details of a student’s disability, but they do “identify the accommodation as appropriate for [it],” try to understand whether an accommodation will undermine the class at a fundamental level, and mull over alternative ways to accommodate a student, OAE said. Sometimes, staff will talk with other administrators and department chairs.

“Rarely do we discuss legal precedent, unless it is a very commonly upheld accommodation, because every student and every class context, is unique and must be examined on a case-by-case basis,” OAE wrote.

Sarah’s conversations with chemistry department didn’t end after her lab was excused. She also wanted to push for a broader change in how the department handled OAE needs, advocating for increased accommodations for makeup work so that medical emergencies like hers wouldn’t jeopardize a student’s ability to complete the class. She didn’t want to get in more disputes, and many students, she thought, would have taken a professor’s “no” to excusing an assignment or giving a makeup opportunity as the final word.

Her desire to resolve both her grading questions and her overarching issues with the department led her to speak in October 2017 with chemistry professor Dan Stack, who oversees lectures for chemistry “service courses,” the large introductory classes meant for students across majors.

According to Sarah, Stack emphasized the difficulty of providing certain academic accommodations, saying at one point that the chemistry department was already stretched thin accommodating student-athletes’ schedules. At the end, Sarah said, she asked Stack what he would have her do as a student taking chemistry, given her disability.

“I guess you have to take it elsewhere,” she says he told her.

“My jaw dropped,” Sarah recounts in her blog post. “Since that day, I have heard those words thousands of times in my mind.” She argues the chemistry department’s approach to accommodations violates the ADA.

Stack told The Daily he does not recall the details of the conversation from a year and half ago and, regardless, did not want to speak to particulars of Sarah’s case. But he reiterated his view that some accommodations are too challenging to provide.

“I think she was asking for something that we just couldn’t deliver,” he said.

Asked about Sarah’s takeaway from their talk — that students with certain needs should not take chemistry at Stanford — Stack said he does not think he would have said that. The department accommodates “to the best of our ability given the resources that we have,” he added. He said he may have been explaining his personal philosophy on balancing academics with other priorities, one he’s given many students through 25 years of advising, but that he says has no bearing on chemistry’s approach to OAE requests.

“Life events can really knock you off your game, and I think that trying to pursue chemistry, trying to pursue research, when you have a life event, is really difficult. Exceptionally difficult,” he said. “It takes a long time to get over such life events, and one does not necessarily drill down very deep, you know.”

For Sarah, whose disability isn’t going away soon, Stack’s view is deeply discouraging.

She maintains that more flexibility in the chemistry department’s blanket policy of waiving assignments rather than giving extensions would have helped her reassure her instructor that she was learning enough of the course. Maybe, she said, she could have finished the course the first time she took it, rather than taking an incomplete that she finished the next quarter. She understands the work involved in creating makeup assignments, but suggested she could have done old problem sets, bound by the Honor Code from looking at others’ answers.

Accommodations help “level the playing field,” she said.

“And you can never level the playing field,” she continued. “I went to school here for two years without any medical issues, and it was a million times easier.”

You can never level the playing field

Faculty perspectives

History professor James Campbell said he hasn’t run into difficulties accommodating students,  something he attributes in part to his teaching philosophy. He sees assignments mostly as chances for students to learn, rather than chances for them to be evaluated. So while he’s “not completely indifferent to concerns about fairness,” when a student asks for, say, an extension that he thinks will help them actually learn from the assignment, he’s likely to grant it — with or without an OAE letter.

He views the Americans with Disabilities Act as “one of the crowning achievements” of an important civil rights era.

“It is the law,” Campbell said. “And I revere it. And I am therefore committed to doing everything I possibly can to ensure that all the students who come through my classroom, however differently abled they might be, have an opportunity to learn, to succeed, to flourish.”

But Campbell understands why other professors would face more hurdles than he does in providing accommodations — professors of classes with hundreds of students where creating new batches of problems for makeup assessments is onerous. And departments that have grappled with more Honor Code violations might have extra reservations about, say, spreading out exam times, he added.

These were some of the issues chemistry faculty cited.

Makeup tests, labs and problem sets are “not possible given the current resources that have been allotted to these courses,” Stack said, and posting answers quickly so that students can check answers is “important in these large, fast paced courses.” While the department sometimes lets students take exams a day late, it does not give exams after answers are released, due to cheating concerns.

Spurred by conversations with students like Sarah, and with help from OAE, Stack said, the chemistry department has worked to standardize its approach to accommodations requests. With safety concerns in mind, the department has new policies on how many labs a student can miss (attend fewer than six labs in CHEM 33, and you can’t pass the course). And since last school year, all disability requests for special exam conditions like extended time or distraction-free environments go to a central coordinator, a graduate student paid by OAE who handles what Stack says is a growing number of requests each year.

A decade ago, he recalls, a large chemistry lecture of 300 people might have one or two students with OAE letters. Now, 15 is standard. Stack said the department has struggled to handle this jump and the corresponding work.

“I truly love teaching, you know, intro organic [chemistry] … I think it’s just a beautiful subject,” he said.

But, Stack continued, “If the courses become just an administrative nightmare, I don’t want to be there.”

You can never level the playing field

A good chunk of that administrative work now goes to sixth-year Ph.D. student Ariel Jacobs, the department’s OAE exam coordinator. Finding space for students who need private exam rooms is tough, he said, though he believes the department has developed a good system — pressed for rooms, he worked with OAE recently to host some tests outside chemistry’s home in the Sapp Center. Even trickier is timing for students who need double time on a final. Because students can’t take exams early, someone with a disability could end up working on their test until 1 a.m. — then head to another exam at 8 a.m.

These students aren’t happy, Jacobs said.

“It’s a jigsaw puzzle,” he added. “It’s crazy.”

Some students said they understand when teachers deem accommodations too burdensome to implement. An undergraduate whose OAE accommodations also account for class absences withdrew from a math course in fall 2018 after she missed a quiz — the weight of which would just be added to the weight of her final — and grew overwhelmed at the prospect of taking an exam without smaller learning milestones. The student asked her professor if she could take an incomplete; the professor said no.

But after dropping the course, the student — who said her teachers have been largely accommodating — was sympathetic to the professor’s policy against makeup tests.

“I do understand that the quarter system is really fast,” she said. “I imagine … the professor has to have a policy that they just won’t make up quizzes, because it just becomes too complicated. There’s a lot going on.”

Most professors The Daily spoke with, however, reported few problems providing disability accommodations. Some said they comply unequivocally with what the OAE recommends.

“From my standpoint the whole situation is very straightforward. If a student presents an OAE letter then I honor the accommodations provided in the letter,” wrote economics lecturer Scott McKeon in an email to The Daily. “Period.”

The economics classes he’s aware of do not explicitly take attendance, so students do not request excused absences. He has only received accommodations requests related to exam times and extensions. “And, the rules laid out within the OAE letters have always been clear-cut on those issues,” he said.

Fellow economics professor Chris Makler explained that official OAE decisions go through the the department’s registrar office, which he said has “really good processes” for dealing with requests smoothly.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, things go off without a hitch,” Makler said.

Makler has a son with type 1 diabetes. Given that personal connection to disability, he even encourages some students to ask for OAE accommodations. “Get the letter so that you have extra time if you need to take the time to bring your glucose back in range,” he recalled telling diabetic students in his classes.

Similarly, English department chair Blakey Vermeule said she could not think of “a single case” in which a student came to an English professor with an accommodation request that they could not grant.

“I would always err on the side of trying to help the student to the fullest extent of my capacities,” she said. “And I think all the faculty in the English department feel the same way.”

Invisible needs

Two students with visible physical disabilities said they’ve never had an issue getting the accommodations they seek from faculty.

“The things that I need are pretty straightforward,” said Tilly Griffiths ’22, a freshman who uses a wheelchair. “People can see why I need them.”

But others with so-called “invisible” disabilities said faculty might not notice when they’re struggling, or might question their use of accommodations. Tuttle spoke of unintended singling out of students whose disabilities may not be apparent — by professors who inadvertently make a student reveal their disability to peers, or who don’t realize that giving quizzes in the middle of a class poses challenges for a student with extra time accommodations.

An undergraduate who wished to remain anonymous to maintain privacy around her disability shared an email exchange with a faculty member from last spring in which she explained debilitating nerve pain from a knee surgery. The teacher agreed to set the student’s final presentation so that there would be room to reschedule if she was in too much pain.

When the student followed up to say she did “not feel prepared to present,” the instructor probed the student’s motives. The student was taken aback.

“If this were just a case in which you didn’t feel prepared, or in which you could have done the work to prepare but had freely chosen not to do it, you would still need to present tomorrow with everyone else,” the instructor wrote.

“I am very glad to support any accommodations that you need in order for this class to be accessible and inclusive for you,” she continued, “but not feeling prepared or choosing not to prepare are in a different category from OAE accommodations.”

The student’s knee pain came on top of another, more persistent autoimmune condition that she says sometimes makes her unable to focus and can leave her so tired she can barely lift a fork to eat. The symptoms are serious enough that she’s had to take a reduced course load for most of her time at Stanford. They make it difficult to predict how long she’ll need to complete an assignment; what’s typically a 20-minute task can easily balloon to two hours, she said. This can be even harder to explain to teachers.

“This fatigue thing – you can’t tell your teacher, I couldn’t do it because I was tired,” the student said. “That’s what they hear when you try to explain it.”

OAE letters don’t include the details of a student’s disability. Gonzalez from the Diversity and Access Office emphasized that students should not feel obligated to reveal this information to professors — in fact, she cautions students against doing so.

“People have their own biases or then their imagination goes sort of to the next degree,” she said. “Oh they’re not going to be able to do this, they’re not going to be able to do that. And then I see it sometimes pop up in letters, like letters of recommendation – in spite of Rosa’s blindness, she did really well in my class.”  

But multiple students told The Daily that the reason for an accommodation is likely to come up in conversations with faculty, especially when a student asks for extensions on assignments.

Julia — a senior who has been granted extensions and other OAE accommodations because of her struggles with sexual violence and post-traumatic stress disorder — recalled feeling uncomfortable approaching professors about her needs.

“It does, I think, take some grit and courage to send in your letter to your professor,” said Julia, whose last name The Daily has withheld due to the personal nature of her accommodations. “They are just meeting you. I feel like the immediate thought is, ‘Oh my God, what’s wrong?’”

She said she has started off quarters hoping to get through classes without needing her accommodations, only to initiate more difficult discussions later. Per OAE policies, professors must accommodate students who send in their letters late in the quarter, though those accommodations do not apply retroactively — a student cannot get an extension on a deadline they have already missed.

Julia said she’s become a better advocate for herself.

“When it’s really come down to an extension or accommodation, that will make a huge difference to me,” she said. “I think I’m good at expressing how much I need it.”

Seeking change

Faced with students’ concerns, administrators said they’re open to feedback.

Lauren Schoenthaler, Stanford’s Senior Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Access, said the University’s training for new department chairs and deans this year spent more time discussing resources for faculty to help students with accommodations.

However, some students argued that this 15-minute segment is still short and said the University should provide better training for all faculty on academic accommodations.

Faculty know to include a standard “Student with Documented Disabilities” paragraph in their syllabi, outlining how students can request help through OAE. In Tuttle’s experience, though, professors’ knowledge doesn’t extend far beyond that.

“I think what really needs to be fixed is … on the University level,” he said.

Professors mentioned periodic email reminders from the University about OAE policies, and Schoenthaler said that this April’s two-hour sexual harassment training for all faculty and supervisors — held once every two years — would “briefly cover” accommodations, OAE and the Diversity and Access Office.

OAE is also working with other departments to “consider whether there are ways to harness resources and systems to support accommodations such as making up labs, and taking tests with extended time,” Schoenthaler wrote in an email. “If students have suggestions for streamlining accommodations, we would appreciate hearing them.”

And Gonzalez said she hopes more students will discover the Diversity and Access Office’s grievance process, which some students with disabilities told The Daily they were not aware of until recently. The grievance process is outlined on OAE’s website, and OAE said it refers students to the process when they are unhappy with accommodations or when they have experienced discrimination based on their disability. Before submitting a grievance, Schoenthaler added, students can talk confidentially with the University Ombuds, or non-confidentially with her about their options.

The grievance process asks that students submit complaints fewer than 10 days after the academic quarter in which their dispute arose. But Gonzalez says she welcomes discussions of all issues and has investigated incidents more than a year past.

“I would say to anybody, come and talk to me,” she said.

Meanwhile, the ASSU has taken its own steps to raise awareness of resources like the grievance process available to those with disabilities. In the same February email to students that broadcasted Sarah’s story, ASSU executives Shanta Katipamula ’19 and Graduate School of Education Ph.D. student Rosie Nelson outlined several University processes that help students resolve academic disputes.

Other students, like Tuttle, are hoping for change in the way both students and faculty think about accommodations.

“I had a time where I didn’t feel like I was entitled to them,” Tuttle said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, we’re giving you extra …’ A lot of people, because of the way that feels to them, just don’t go for it when they need it.”

Contact Hannah Knowles at hknowles ‘at’ and Courtney Douglas at ccdouglas ‘at’

Katie Keller and Elizabeth Lindqwister contributed to this report.

This article has been updated to clarify Sarah’s concerns with OAE and the chemistry department’s handling of accommodations.

July 2021: This article has been updated to remove the name and photo of the student whose blog post was circulated among the Stanford community. This change does not reflect a retraction of our reporting; rather, it was made due to a request for anonymity from the student profiled in the article, and a determination that the continued public interest of the article no longer depended on the student being named when weighed against the impact on the student.
The Daily seeks to be responsible and transparent in its post-publication changes. Post-publication changes always include an editor’s note, and previous versions of Daily articles are archived at
— Erin Woo, Vol. 259 editor-in-chief
eic ‘at’

Hannah Knowles is senior staff writer from San Jose who served as Volume 253 Editor-in-Chief. Prior to that, she managed The Daily's news section.Courtney Douglas worked for The Daily from 2016 to 2020, and served as editor-in-chief of Volume 254.

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