Case name: Letter to: State University of New York at Binghamton, No. 02-12-2023 (OCR 06/26/12).
Ruling: The Office for Civil Rights determined that the State University of New York at Binghamton discriminated against a former student because his disability was one of the reasons that he was denied readmission to a graduate program.
What it means: OCR may find that a college or university violated an individual’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Rehabilitation Act if the decision to deny him admission to an educational program was partly influenced by his disclosure that he has a disability.
Summary: OCR investigated a former student’s allegation that Binghamton University denied him readmission to its Master of Public Administration program because of his disability (Asperger syndrome).
OCR found that the complainant was first admitted to the program as an “unconditional student” in the fall of 2010. However, in October 2010 the assistant director for graduate studies notified him that there were concerns regarding his communication and analytical skills. His cumulative GPA for that semester was 2.89.
The graduate studies policy required a minimum GPA of 3.0 plus a minimum of 3.0 for each credit that counted toward a graduate degree. As a result of the complainant’s failure to maintain the minimum GPA, he was dismissed from the program. In the spring of 2011, the complainant retook some courses as a nonmatriculated student. He disclosed his disability to one of the professors. The professor advised him to register with the disability services office because faculty had received training where they’d been told that only disclosure to the DS office could serve as certification of a disability.
The complainant applied for readmission in March 2011. His application was reviewed and denied by a committee that consisted of the department chair, the assistant director, and the professor to whom the complainant disclosed his disability.
OCR found that only one other student — a non-disabled individual — had been dismissed for failing to maintain the minimum GPA. That student was readmitted despite the fact that the committee members who reviewed his application expressed many concerns about his ability to succeed. The readmitted student’s record was similar to the complainant’s.
As a result, OCR concluded that the university did not proffer solely legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the decision to deny the complainant’s readmission application.
The university resolved the noncompliance issue by entering into a resolution agreement that, among other things, called for providing training to all administrators and faculty involved in making admissions decisions.