In order for a student to be successful in college, most need the stereotypical notebook, pen and pencil. They choose their classes carefully and choose their pens with even more discretion. But what if your choices in your education were taken from you? What if you were told that a tool that you needed to succeed would be kept from you?
For senior communication major Crystal Hudson, this situation is a dire reality. Hudson has profound hearing loss, sometimes using hearing aids and often using sign language to help her in conversations. When in a quiet room with another person, Hudson can focus and read lips. But the distractions of a classroom make doing so virtually impossible.
Hudson transferred to Northern Kentucky University from Western Kentucky University in 2009. At the time of her move, Hudson was also considering the University of Cincinnati.
When Hudson visited UC in 2009, she went to the Disability Services office there. After speaking with them, they told her they would offer her an interpreter, a captionist and a note-taker. Hudson felt as though she had “won the lottery” with the options she was given for assistance.
Despite the benefits UC offered, Hudson chose to attend NKU for financial reasons.
Upon her arrival, all that Hudson needed in order to receive the help of an interpreter was an audiology report and letterhead from her audiologist. In her first semester here, Hudson obtained a 4.0 GPA while utilizing an interpreter.
In fall 2011, after receiving the help of an interpreter for about a year and a half, Hudson was denied one from Disability Services.
In spring 2012, after being denied an interpreter from Disability Services for a second semester, Hudson dropped a class. She had “done poorly” on the midterm test, and felt that she would not be able to complete the class with an acceptable grade.
Hudson might have to attend NKU for another semester in order to graduate, even though her anticipated graduation date is May 2012. She is currently nine credit hours away from graduating, but is concerned that she won’t be able to complete classes with a sufficient grade.
Hudson has filed a 45-page appeal and will have a committee hearing within the upcoming weeks.
“I respect policy…and I respect why rules are in place by the university..however when it comes to educating students, the university should uphold the need of a student before judging them against policy. Especially when documentation has been used to aid in the students education before. There should be no question as to whether or not policy or education should override the other. Ethics before politics,” Hudson said.
Cindy Knox, assistant director of disability services, said that the office follows the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) best practices for documentation.
Knox said that “based off of university policy, accommodations not approved by Disability Services are not to be allowed in the classroom setting.”
To receive accommodations, such as aids, interpreters or volunteer note-takers, a hearing impaired student must have “a hearing loss of 30 decibels or greater, pure tone average of 500, 1000, 2000 Hz ANSI, unaided, in the better ear,” according to Disability Services’ website.
Students seeking accommodations are also required to have documentation verifying a deaf or hard of hearing disability.
Despite these requirements, in previous years, Hudson was granted an interpreter.
Because she was unable to obtain an interpreter in fall 2011 and spring 2012, Hudson’s boyfriend Jeremy Gibbs sat in class with her to interpret the professor and class discussion. Gibbs said the professor’s were “very helpful” and asked what they could do to help.
But according to Gibbs, about two weeks into the spring semester, one of Hudson’s professors told him he “legally couldn’t interpret for her” because of Disability Services’ decision.
Gibbs said the university has “denied her the right to an education,” and to him, it does not seem right.
“It’s very challenging, to say the least,” he said.
After Gibbs was asked to leave the classroom, a classmate stepped up to try to help Hudson. Senior communication major Nicole Secen takes notes for Hudson in a shared course.
Having Gibbs in the classroom was an improvement for Hudson, according to Secen, who has trouble recording everything in the discussion-based class.
Although she is not interpreting for Hudson, Secen said she doesn’t understand the difference between her taking notes for her and Gibbs being in the classroom to help.
Secen said that Disability Services is just making it harder for Hudson because the office “doesn’t seem to be helping at all. There should be some way to take the same class,” and to get the same education as everyone else, she said about Hudson’s situation.
Gibbs said he agrees that the situation is not right. Not only does the lack of an interpreter add hours to her studying time, even with Secen’s notes, but it also is challenging in other parts of her life.
“She cherishes her education,” Gibbs said. “It’s hard to watch her being robbed, in a sense.”