Wow in a Bad Way

A case of “You can’t play” has come to my attention that is so glaringly wrong I feel compelled to post about it here. In addition, I have a personal connection because of the college in question and the disability awareness work I did in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Mout Holyoke College (MHC), located in South Hadley, Mass, is one of the Seven Sisters as is Vassar College, my alma mater. Back when schools like Yale, Harvard, and Amherst college were exclusively male, the Seven Sisters evolved into the female counterpart of these universities. In point of fact, I believe MHC is the oldest female college in the country. It is also part of a five college network composed of Smith College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and Umass Amherst. Thus my disability rights work brought me in contact with MHC students.

A friend pointed me at a blog written by a MHC student who tells us about her first year on the campus through the eyes of her service animal Holden. Dog in the Dorm As she bemoans in this blog, it was meant to be a light-hearted way to keep people up to date on her life. Unfortunately, MHC has behaved so badly that it became a chronicle of her frustrations and struggles. In reading it, you can even tell how hard she endeavors to keep things light in the face of what I categorize as “WE want you gone yesterday” behavior.

This student has a mobility impairment and a chronic health condition, so of course they put her on the third floor of a dorm with several heavy fire doors to open either coming or going. Her room was so small she had to park her scooter in the lobby so anyone could mess with it. It took them until the spring semester to move her to an appropriate room, but it seems problems still exist. When she took her service animal to the various dining halls, she was denied admission. This lasted more than two months until the school finally agreed to post signs with the service animal policy clearly stated at all dining facilities. I could go on, but really she tells it better.

You would think that such a prestigious school originally founded to provide equal educational opportunities to women would know better. You would think that almost 20 years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act would make such behavior extinct. Nope. Here’s the worst part: She’s not alone.

Apparently, other MHC students are routinely experiencing similar problems and are unable to resolve them. The student with the blog has retained counsel and things are changing for her, but what about the other students?

I wanted to do my part to bring MHC’s behavior to people’s attention. While I wish MHC was the only institution of higher education behaving in this manner, it is not. I scanned my own college’s website and discovered as recently as 2008 students with disabilities were experiencing trouble getting what they needed. I am certain it is happening at other schools as well. I also know there must be schools doing it right, right?

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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