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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Committee to assess University's disability services

A committee of faculty and staff members has been formed to assess Princeton's disability services and to help strengthen the University's efforts to provide an inclusive, accessible campus environment.

The Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Disability Services for Undergraduates, appointed by Provost Christopher Eisgruber, will review the services provided by the Office of Disability Services, which was established in 2006 to more effectively meet the needs of faculty, staff, students and visitors with disabilities. In particular, the office was created to respond to the growth in the population of students with special needs -- especially those with learning disabilities -- that is occurring not only at Princeton, but at universities nationwide.

The committee will assess Princeton's approach to requests from undergraduate students for individualized accommodations related to their academic programs. Its members will consult broadly with the student body and faculty, and also with a range of administrative professionals and experts at Princeton and peer institutions.

Jean Schwarzbauer, professor of molecular biology, will chair the committee, which is expected to complete its work and discuss its findings with Eisgruber by the end of this academic year.

"The committee's members will have to invest considerable time and effort in order to execute this project successfully," Eisgruber said. "I thank them for their willingness to do so; their conclusions will matter greatly to the quality of education that Princeton provides to its students."

According to Eisgruber's charge to the committee, the members will evaluate the appropriateness of the Office of Disability Services' current policies and procedures, identify best practices in the field and "advance Princeton's commitment to an inclusive, accessible and equitable campus."

The key questions that the committee will seek to answer include:

  • Is the Office of Disability Services using appropriate criteria to determine whether to grant or deny requests for accommodations related to the undergraduate academic program?
  • Is the University providing an appropriate range of accommodations to students with disabilities?
  • Does the University have an appropriate process and timeline for reviewing the documentation that students submit to support their accommodation requests?
  • Does the University have in place an appropriate and effective appeals process for handling informal and formal appeals of decisions by the Office of Disability Services?
  • Has the University constructed effective and efficient communication networks between the Office of Disability Services and other offices and academic departments?

In addition to Schwarzbauer, the committee members include: Claire Fowler, senior associate dean of the college; Hendrik Hartog, the Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty; John Kolligian, executive director of University Health Services; Andrea LaPaugh, professor of computer science; Erin McDermott, executive associate director of athletics; Daniel Oppenheimer, associate professor of psychology and public affairs; and Dmitri Tymoczko, associate professor of music. Eve Tominey, director of the Office of Disability Services, and Hannah Ross, University counsel, will sit with the committee. Terri Reed, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity, will serve as secretary.

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