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DSP Appeals and Grievance Process

The University of Southern California is committed to full compliance with the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As part of the implementation of this law, the University will continue to provide academic adjustments and auxiliary aids for academically qualified students with disabilities, so those students can participate fully in the University’s educational programs and activities. Although USC is not required by law to change the “fundamental nature of essential curricular components of its programs in order to accommodate the needs of disabled students,” the University will provide reasonable academic adjustments and auxiliary aids. The specific responsibility of the University administration and all faculty serving in a teaching capacity is to ensure the University’s compliance with this policy.
The general definition of a student with a disability is any person who has “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities,” and any person who has “a history of, or is regarded as having, such an impairment.” Reasonable academic and physical accommodations include but are not limited to: extended time on examinations; substitution of similar or related work for a non-fundamental program requirement; time extensions on papers and projects; special testing procedures; advance notice regarding book list; use of academic aides in the classroom such as note takers and sign language interpreters; early advisement and assistance with registration; accessibility for students who use wheelchairs and those with mobility impairments; and need for special classroom furniture or special equipment in the classroom.

Obtaining Accommodations

Physical Accommodations—Students with physical disabilities should contact Disability Services and Programs (DSP) prior to or during the first week of class attendance or as early in the semester as possible. The office will work with Facilities Management, the course instructors and their departments, and the students to arrange for facilities and/or program access, and when necessary, barrier removal.

Academic Accommodations—Students seeking academic accommodations due to a disability should register with DSP as early in the semester as possible.   The student shall present the DSP verification of approved accommodations to the course instructors, or the student can request and authorize DSP to share this information with the course instructors.
For assistance in how to provide reasonable accommodations for a particular disability, course instructors are encouraged to consult with Disability Services and Programs (DSP). Students requesting academic accommodations who do not have DSP documentation should be referred to that office.

Part 1, Appeals Process for Eligibility Determinations by Disability Services and Programs

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides that: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance . . .”
 
In compliance with Section 504, the university provides academic adjustments and auxiliary aids for students with disabilities. The university’s Section 504 Coordinator is Edward Roth.   For more information, please contact Edward Roth, at eroth@usc.edu or visit equity.usc.edu.
 
This grievance process will apply to situations where a student feels that the Disability Services and Programs Office did not approve him/her for the appropriate accommodations as required by law, including eligibility decisions, the type of the academic adjustment(s) or auxiliary aid(s) offered, or denial of eligibility.  There is both an informal and formal process that a student can choose to utilize.  For complaints that a faculty or staff member did not properly implement the approved academic adjustments or auxiliary aids in the approved accommodation plan, complaints regarding lack of physical access, or general complaints of discrimination on the basis of disability, please see below (Part 2). 

Informal:

  1. A student may contact the Disability Services and Programs counselor that he/she was working with and request that their file be reviewed for further accommodations.  Students may provide the counselor with additional documentation validating their need for such accommodations.
  2. A student may contact, Dr. Edward Roth, the Director for Disability Services and Programs and Section 504 Coordinator or Dr. Mattie Grace, the Associate Director for Disability Services and Programs and request that his/her file be reviewed by Dr. Roth or Dr. Grace for additional consideration.  Dr. Roth or Dr. Grace can be reached at ability@usc.edu, or by phone at 213.740.0776.

Formal:

  1. A formal grievance must be filed with Dr. Lynette Merriman, Assistant Provost for Support and Advocacy during the semester in which the concern arose.  Dr. Merriman can be reached at merriman@usc.edu, or 213.740.2421.  The grievance must be in writing and include the following information:
    1. The contact information and Student ID number for the student filing the claim
    2. A full description of the situation 
    3. A statement of the requested accommodations
  2. The Assistant Provost will begin an investigation within seven (7) days of receiving the formal grievance documentation.  The investigation may include interviews, consultations with the 504 coordinator, and the collection of all relevant information. 
  3. The investigation will be completed within thirty (30) days after the Assistant Provost has received the written grievance.
  4. The Assistant Provost will provide the student and the Disability Services and Programs office with a written statement outlining her findings and the appropriate accommodations that must be initiated immediately.  Possible findings might include measures to provide reasonable accommodations and/or accessibility.   
  5. Interim accommodations and remedies might be initiated by the Assistant Provost while the investigation proceeds to ensure that the student is able to continue with his/her coursework.

Part 2, Grievance Process for Denial by Faculty or Staff of Approved Academic Adjustments and Auxiliary Aids

A student who believes that a faculty member or teaching assistant at the University of Southern California has not provided appropriate accommodation in the classroom may attempt to resolve the matter either informally or formally.

1.) Informal:  A student may choose to resolve the problem of not being provided authorized auxiliary aides or academic adjustments in the classroom by speaking directly with the faculty member and requesting appropriate accommodations, as determined by DSP.  A student may request advice, assistance, and/or advocacy from Disability Services and Programs. 

Students may wish to discuss the situation informally with the student affairs personnel for assistance. Discussion with the faculty member, disability specialist, and/or department coordinators may lead to resolution of the matter without further procedures. If not, the student may choose to file a formal written complaint.

Note:  If an instructor has concerns or questions about an accommodation that DSP has determined to be appropriate for a particular student, the instructor should contact DSP promptly.  If, after adequately thorough and good faith discussion with DSP, the faculty member disagrees with the accommodation, the faculty member should seek its review by contacting the Provost or his/her designee within five University working days of being notified about it by DSP or the student. The Provost, or his/her delegate, will attempt to resolve the disagreement informally, and if that is not successful, will consult with the relevant faculty chair and dean and then make a final determination.   The instructor must provide the student with the approved accommodation(s) until it is either set aside or modified by the Provost or the Provost’s designee. 

The department chairs and deans are responsible for ensuring that the faculty of their units understand USC's full commitment to implementing Federal law and University policy assuring nondiscrimination for students on the basis of disability.  If an instructor fails to provide an academic accommodation that is determined to be appropriate pursuant to this policy, the instructor's department chair (or dean), in conjunction with DSP, will ensure that the accommodation is provided in a timely manner.

Failure to provide a needed accommodation to a student with a disability is discrimination against someone based on a protected characteristic, in violation of Faculty Handbook 6-B (1), and should be reported to the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED).   On a complaint to OED, a finding by the Designated Investigator that a faculty member’s action or inaction amounted to discrimination would lead to consideration of discipline by the designated Vice Provost under Faculty Handbook chapter 6.

 

2.) Formal:  To initiate a formal complaint, the student will need to contact the Office of Equity and Diversity at equity.usc.edu. That office will investigate in keeping with established university protocols.  A student may request advice, assistance or advocacy from the office of Disability Services and Programs.

 

Time Frame for Resolving Disagreements

In situations where there is disagreement concerning the appropriateness of a particular accommodation, every effort will be made to resolve the disagreement as expeditiously as possible. In consultation with DSP and the Office of Equity and Diversity, every effort should be made by the academic department to try to enable the student to continue in the course throughout the grievance proceeding.