‘Ableism is real at Stanford’: Prospective frosh calls out insufficient OAE accommodations

March 2, 2021, 12:46 a.m.

Stanford was Antonio Milane’s dream school. But, when the University declined to provide him with a scribe for his homework assignments, the prospective frosh began to weigh his decision.

He turned to social media for support, posting on Instagram. The post, reposted by members of the Stanford community, received over 13,000  likes and 2,000 comments. 

“Ableism is real at Stanford. The institution stands for diversity, however, the discriminatory policies undermine their founding principles,” Milane wrote in an update on Tuesday.

Milane has cerebral palsy, a neurological disability that affects muscle movement. Milane said he received scribing services in high school to complete homework and classwork, and would be unable to attend Stanford without a scribe. 

Office of Accessible Education (OAE) Director Teri Adams wrote in an email to Milane that scribing or typing assistance for homework is considered a personal service. While Disability Services does not pay for personal services, they would cover the costs of “any needed assistance in activity classes,” such as labs.  

According to Milane, OAE told him they could potentially adjust his financial aid and directed him towards the Opportunity Fund as an alternate source of funding. He didn’t immediately hear back from the Fund and is concerned about the financial burden of personally paying for a scribe. 

“While scribing or typing assistance for homework outside the classroom is considered a personal service under the law and under Stanford’s policies, which Disability Services does not fund, we connect students to resources to help them identify those funding sources,” wrote University spokesperson E.J. Miranda in a statement to The Daily. 

Milane said “even with a full ride, my expected cost is $55,000” a year for disability accommodations like a scribe and personal care assistance (PCA).

Second-year sociology Ph.D. candidate Cat Sanchez ’19, who serves as co-chair of the Stanford Board on Judicial Affairs and student co-chair of the Stanford Disability Initiative said that some students with disabilities have needs that the University isn’t legally obligated to accommodate but they are a barrier to “an equitable educational experience.” She supports creating a separate fund designated to provide the additional help to students, which would help to centralize the process and make accommodations more accessible, as well as remove the burden from individual students and disability advisors Sanchez said. 

Milane explained that there was a lot of uncertainty during the process of communicating with OAE. Instead of receiving direct support, he was often referred to other people or told that the advisor would reach out to someone else. Milane said he was initially told that he would not be able to appeal OAE’s decision until he matriculated. 

Sanchez said the decentralization of University policies “means things don’t change, and then people fall through the cracks and if they don’t advocate for themselves strongly they don’t get their needs met.” 

Following Milane’s appeal on social media, he says Senior Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Students Mona Hicks reached out to him to schedule a meeting this week. Hicks did not immediately respond to The Daily’s request for comment. 

Milane hopes to receive support from the University as soon as possible. “I’ve been putting all my effort into this and haven’t been doing my school work,” Milane said. 

In response to Milane’s predicament, the Class of 2025 drafted an email to the University demanding “that Stanford provide Antonio a scribe for all homework and classwork as well as work to change all ableist policies, including but not limited to forcing disabled students to pay for essential accommodations and a lack of transparency in the accommodations process.” 

“Stanford is Antonio’s dream school, and he hopes to view his acceptance to Stanford as a statement that he will receive full accommodations for his disability from administration and the community support that he deserves,” students wrote.

Students created a google form with the email and Milane’s statement from social media to collect signatures. According to organizers, the form had collected 5,200 verified signatures as of  5 p.m. on Monday. Students are in the process of sending the email with the signatures to University administrators. 

Prospective frosh Kyle Haslett wrote that while their first priority is to help Milane secure the accommodations he needs, “we want to look to push the conversation and put pressure on all higher education to do what needs to be done to help students of all abilities learn and thrive, especially if they have the endowments to do so.”

Milane said he received adequate support at his local community college and throughout high school. 

But, when he reached out to a few other schools that he applied to, including Stanford peer institutions in the Ivy League and University of California system, but they also said they would be unable to provide  a scribe or they were unresponsive to his queries. 

Prospective and current students have rallied around Milane.

“Stanford is known for being a center of innovation and trailblazers. I hope that they will continue this legacy by providing Antonio with the necessary accommodations, while setting a precedent across higher education for eliminating ableist policies,” Hannah Griswold ’25 wrote in a statement to The Daily.

“I want Stanford to live up to its values,” said prospective frosh Nkem Obi, citing the commitment to diversity and inclusion in the University’s statement of purpose. 

Prospective frosh Vardaan Shah said students from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds, including students with physical disabilities “have to be included and not just included in a sense that they’re being offered admission but included in a meaningful way where they have the same opportunities to succeed as everyone else.”

While ASSU Director of Disability Advocacy and Daily columnist Tilly Griffiths ’22 was disappointed to see the challenges Milane is facing, response from the student community gave her “great hope for the future of disability advocacy.” 

Griffiths said it “may take a long-game approach” to change the University’s position on accommodating personal services but she hoped this situation would bring attention to the issue.

Sanchez hopes the University would revisit OAE policies and “make things more clear or even make a process for appeal, so that a student doesn’t have to go onto Instagram.”

Despite the stress of the situation, Milane was heartened by the support from the Stanford community. 

“The student body has been amazing, that’s why I know for sure I want to go now,” Milane said. 

“It’s amazing how much they care and how much they’re putting into this, it means the world to me.”

Kaushikee Nayudu '24 is The Daily's Editor in Chief. Contact her at knayudu ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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