By: Kate Corbin
Note: These resources have been organized for graduate students at Stony Brook University. If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a student with a disability, please contact SASC or the GSO.
Disabilities/conditions that qualify for institutional support and protection
- Physical disabilities
- Learning disabilities
- Neurological disabilities
- Psychological disabilities
- Medical disabilities
- Temporary conditions (pregnancy, cancer, broken legs, other illnesses and injuries)
You are both a student and an employee, so you may have to advocate for yourself on both sides of the equation. The student side is easier to navigate than the employee side.
Be advised: get it in writing! Keep records of decisions and meetings with your department chair, advisor, graduate coordinator, etc. This includes committee meetings – write up a summary of the meeting after the fact and send it to your entire committee. Hopefully you’ll never need a paper trail, but if things don’t go your way, a record can only help you.
Be advised: if you decide to go on medical leave, your medical insurance will be revoked. You’ll probably go on COBRA. Many departments come up with unofficial solutions to keep their sick students on the payroll for this reason. Sometimes the solutions are great. Sometimes it’s a sh*t show. It’s not really legal. Sometimes the department won’t make any effort, particularly if you’re still on your parents’ insurance.
SASC (Student Accessibility Support Center)
- Most important resource for grad students on campus – registering with them is completely confidential. Will NOT disclose your disability status to your department (or anyone else) unless you ask them to. You can schedule a time to meet with them and weigh your options without registering your disability, and again, it’s completely confidential. Ultimately, you will need documentation from a medical provider, but you can discuss it with them first.
- Geared towards classroom accommodations during coursework, can also help with housing accommodations
- Can help negotiate with your department when it comes to hitting benchmarks, as long as you get a good SASC counselor and articulate your needs clearly with them. Accommodations are not retroactive – SASC needs to be in from the start.
- If you need to appeal a departmental decision against you, a record at SASC and relationship with them is very very helpful.
- Cannot help with workplace or TA accommodations – for those, go to OIDE or your union rep.
OIDE (Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity)
- The department that you report misconduct/discrimination to. Otherwise unclear what they can do for us.
- Relatively new department, constantly changing staff. Understaffed and overworked, never responded to our requests for a meeting.
- It’s possible to go through the reporting/investigation process and not share/enforce OIDE’s decision with your department.
TA/GA Union and RA Union
- They can help you navigate workplace accommodations.
- They are your friends if you are in non-academic trouble with your advisor, e.g. your lab work isn’t going well and your advisor wants to kick you out of their research group.
- If your advisor sets a meeting to discuss your future and you think it’s not going to go well, your union rep would like to come along. Contact them!
Center for Inclusive Education
- Professional development, advocacy, and community for minority students, plus funding opportunities. Funding opportunities that apply to disabled students are limited, but there are a ton of other things to take advantage of.
- Constantly having workshops, informal talks, etc.
- They’re really good at advocating for their students.
- Completely confidential.
- Donna Buehler, the university ombudsman, is a very nice person.
- Totally neutral and confidential third party to help you navigate tricky situations. She’ll sit and listen and help you figure out your next steps. She also knows people all over the university, so she can help you get contacts pretty much anywhere.
- Fortunately/unfortunately the ombudsman is a mandated reporter, required to report cases of sexual misconduct or imminent harm.
- See separate funding post
- Stony Brook has no resources to fund assistive devices/technologies.
Marijuana in New York State
Not all conditions are included in NY’s medical marijuana laws. We may be on the cusp of legalization.
Stony Brook Campus Food Bank:
Q: Can I register at SASC without telling my department/advisor?
A: Absolutely. If you want classroom accommodations, SASC has to tell the person teaching the course, but other than that, it’s totally your call. They don’t have to tell every person teaching the course either. If you ask them to tell someone, they will. Otherwise their lips/inboxes are sealed.
Q: SASC gave my accommodations form to the professor teaching my class, and the professor asked what’s wrong with me.
A: Curiosity is a plague in academia. It’s probably idle curiosity that isn’t meant to offend or out you, but if you prefer not to answer or suspect your professor’s motives, a benign deflection is always good. Some scripts: “It’s all cleared with the administration.” “I’ll be a completely normal student as long as my accommodations are met.” “You know you’re not supposed to ask that, right?” Or, delivered with a completely mystified expression, “What an inappropriate thing to ask.” You can always ask SASC to talk to the faculty member for you – they can reinforce your right to not disclose.
Q: Should I even disclose? What if my department retaliates?
A: This is a legitimate concern, and it has happened to some grad students at Stony Brook. This is why many students choose not to disclose their disabilities. If you want advice about how to proceed, the ombuds office is a great neutral and confidential resource on campus, or you can talk to someone on the GSO Disability Advocacy Committee and they can point you in a good direction.
Q: I disclosed and now my PI wants to fire me. Now what?
A: If the department tries to kick you out, you can go through the discrimination appeals process at OIDE or appeal to the Graduate Council. Contacting a lawyer may be advisable . Unfortunately, if you want to stay in your graduate program though, the best solution is probably to find a new PI.
Q: I broke my leg. How do I get a disabled parking pass?
A: Through SASC, easily, with documentation.
Q: Is X a disability?
A: I mean, probably. If it’s disabling. Ask SASC. They’re nice people.
Q: What kind of classroom accommodations does SASC provide?
A: Things like copies of slides before class, extra time for testing, deadline forgiveness, etc. are very common. SASC will do any accommodation that helps you, even if it means coming up with novel solutions just for you. People have different functional limitations and different needs. Unfortunately, SASC can only do these things if you’re the student, not the TA. Getting accommodations as the TA is very challenging, but in theory your union rep can help you figure it out.
**Do you have more resources/information/ideas to add to this list? Contact the chair of the GSO’s Disability Advocacy Committee!