Accommodations and Support
Bennington College provides reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified students with documented disabilities when such accommodations are requested and necessary to ensure equal access to College programs and facilities.
This is in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 and similar state laws. A “disability” is a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working, or other activities as defined by law.
Bennington College does not offer programs or courses specifically designed for students with disabilities. However, in addition to reasonable accommodations, the College offers all students a variety of support services such as peer writing and math tutors, faculty advising, academic services, and health and psychological services. These services along with small classes, a focus on the individual, and easily accessible faculty, creates an environment where students thrive and learn to take increasing responsibility for their own education, their own work, and their own lives.
The Assistant Director of Academic Services works with students, faculty, staff, and administrators to provide or arrange for reasonable academic accommodations based on disability and the Associate Dean of Student Life works with students, staff, and administrators to provide or arrange for housing and dining accommodations based on disability. Both endeavor to assist students in becoming effective self-advocates and to facilitate an inclusive, supportive campus atmosphere that fosters respect and promotes independence.
All students with disabilities are encouraged to work with the Assistant Director of Academic Services to request reasonable academic accommodations and with the Associate Dean of Student Life to request reasonable housing and dining accommodations. However, the disclosure of a disability and a request for accommodations is an individual choice and one that the College can encourage but not require. Therefore, students wishing to apply for accommodations for documented disabilities, whether permanent or temporary, must take the lead in completing the Disability Accommodation Request Form, which is mailed to all students upon acceptance to the College and available at any time online. Requests for accommodation must be as specific as possible and normally must be accompanied by the Documentation of a Disability form on pages three and four of the Disability Accommodation Request Form or an equivalent report (e.g. a copy of a psychoeducational evaluation).
Students are expected to work cooperatively with the Assistant Director of Academic Services and/or the Associate Dean of Student Life to determine reasonable and appropriate accommodations. Both the Assistant Director and the Associate Dean work with students, faculty, and staff to determine, provide, and arrange for reasonable accommodations, which are reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis. Reasonable accommodations do not negate requirements for successful completion of a program, course, service and/or activity; adherence to College policies and procedures; or adherence to the College’s community and student conduct standards. Accommodations are considered unreasonable if they (1) fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the College’s programs, services, or activities, (2) cause undue burden to the College, or (3) pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
Requests for accommodations can be made at any time; however, in order for accommodations to be approved prior to the start of the term, completed forms and documentation must be submitted by June 1 for fall term and January 15 for spring term (these dates vary for Master of Arts and Postbaccalaureate programs). Requests made after the deadlines or during the term will be reviewed and determined as quickly as possible. Housing assignments are made for the full academic year; therefore, housing requests from new students made after the June 1 deadline may be more difficult to fulfill. Current and returning students should see the housing accommodations section for applicable housing request deadlines.
Accommodations are not retroactive; accommodation requests granted after the beginning of a term will not apply to previous work in courses for that term or previous terms. If students require attendant care services, they must make arrangements to provide for their own. The College does not assume the coordination or financial responsibilities for attendant care services.
Once accommodations have been approved, students will receive confirmation in writing and are responsible for communicating with faculty and staff about approved accommodations and working with them to make arrangements for accommodations with support from the Assistant Director of Academic Services and/or the Associate Dean of Student Life, as needed. Students are also responsible for communicating with faculty, the Assistant Director of Academic Services, and the Associate Dean of Student Life about the effectiveness and delivery of the approved accommodations. The Assistant Director of Academic Services and the Associate Dean of Student Life will work with students to ensure access to approved accommodations following appropriate review and will assess the efficacy of the accommodations provided.
Students are expected to work cooperatively with the Assistant Director of Academic Services to determine appropriate accommodations, which are reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis.
Some of the most common academic accommodations include (but are not limited to):
- Extended time on quizzes, tests, and in-class assignments
- Separate setting with limited distractions for tests
- Use of computer for tests, in-class assignments, or note taking
- Notetaker (peer) or use of a “smart pen” or other audio recording
- Print materials in an electronic and/or audio format
- Organizational support
- Moving of classrooms to accessible locations
- Reduced course load
The Assistant Director of Academic Services will work with students, faculty, and staff to arrange for approved accommodations and assess the efficacy of the accommodations provided.
Housing and Meal Accommodations
Bennington College was founded on the principle that intellectual development cannot and should not be isolated from the development of the whole person. The College seeks to educate that whole person as a member of a community—a community with a particular ethos. The sustenance of the Bennington College ethos, so eloquently described in the traditional commencement statement, is the result of our collective choices and behaviors. In its commitment to the development and success of the whole person as a member of a community, Bennington College requires all students enrolled in classes full time to live on campus in College housing and subscribe to the College’s full meal plan.
Students seeking housing or dining accommodations must qualify in keeping with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 and similar state laws. In order to determine housing and/or meal accommodations, students must complete the Disability Accommodation Request Form. Students are expected to work cooperatively with the Associate Dean of Student Life to determine reasonable and appropriate accommodations. The Associate Dean works with students and staff to determine, provide, and arrange for reasonable accommodations, which are reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis.
Dining and Meal Plan Accommodations
Dining services provides a variety of options and the staff work closely with all students to meet their dining needs. Because of this, students should first speak with the Director of Dining Services to explore how their needs can be met within the existing meal plan. If after speaking and working with dining services, a student with a disability believes an accommodation, modification, or exemption may be necessary, the student must complete the Disability Accommodation Request Form. It may be necessary for the Associate Dean of Student Life to consult with the Director of Dining Services to make decisions on appropriate reasonable accommodations.
All students are encouraged to utilize the resources available to manage their lives in a residential setting that is focused on the development of the whole person as a member of a community. These resources include house chairs, roommate agreements, quiet and study spaces throughout campus, and peer mediation. If a student with a disability believes an accommodation, modification, or exemption may be necessary, the student must complete the Disability Accommodation Request Form. It is normally necessary for the Associate Dean of Student Life to consult with the Assistant Directors of Residential Life to make decisions on appropriate reasonable housing accommodations.
- New students: Housing assignments are made for the full academic year; therefore, housing requests from new students made after the June 1 deadline may be more difficult to fulfill. Request made after the start of the school year will be considered for the following school year and, if approved, granted sooner if possible and space permits.
- Current and returning students: To be considered for housing accommodations, students must complete the Disability Accommodation Request Form. Housing assignments are for the full academic year and are determined through the housing selection process in the spring term for the next academic year. In order to maximize the College’s ability to grant housing accommodations, students with disabilities must complete the Disability Accommodation Request Form by March 15 for the next academic year.
Students found not eligible for housing accommodations must apply for housing through the standard housing process. Specific room or house requests are not part of the application process. Requests made after the deadline or housing selection in the spring term will still be considered, and if approved, will be fulfilled if space permits. Any requests made after the start of an academic year will be considered for the following school year and, if approved, granted sooner if possible and/or space permits.
Service and Emotional Support Animals
The College recognizes the importance of service animals, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), and the broader category of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) under the Fair Housing Act. An ESA is not a pet. It is an animal that provides physical and/or emotional support to individuals with disabilities. The College allows individuals with disabilities the use of a service animal on campus to facilitate their access to and participation in the College’s programs and activities. The College also allows ESAs that are necessary to provide individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy College housing.
The College has established strict policies regarding the presence of pets and animals on campus. The College will, however, consider a request by an individual with a disability for reasonable accommodation from the no pet/animal policy to allow an ESA that is necessary and reasonable because of a disability. A request for an ESA may be denied as unreasonable if the presence of the animal: (1) imposes an undue financial and/or administrative burden; (2) fundamentally alters College housing policies; and/or (3) poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would cause substantial property damage to the property of others, including College property. Individuals wishing to request such an accommodation should work with the Associate Dean of Student Life and follow the process described in the Requesting Accommodations section and refer to the Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Policy in the Student Handbook for more information regarding assistance animals on campus.
Critical to Bennington’s educational philosophy is the principle of active learning. Attendance and engagement in the classroom, under the guidance of Bennington faculty, are therefore essential components of the learning that takes place at the College. Consistent and attentive class attendance is simply required for the successful completion of coursework here. Missing classes, for whatever reason, fundamentally alters the nature of courses at Bennington. Course instructors set their own attendance policies (i.e., how many absences are possible) within the general policy that attendance in class is mandatory. The policies are reflective of the importance of being present in class as a participant in discussion, in hands-on experiences and interactive content, which cannot be duplicated outside of the classroom. In the event that a student must miss a class, the student should notify the instructor in advance. Notification of absences does not mean that absences are excused.
Students with disabilities that affect attendance on a regular basis can request an attendance accommodation. Attendance accommodations are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Assistant Director of Academic Services and individual faculty using guidelines provided by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Students should be aware that faculty are not required to fundamentally alter their classes and excessive absences may mean a fundamental alteration. In cases where it is not possible for a student with a disability to attend enough class meetings to successfully complete the course, a withdrawal from the course can be considered as an alternate accommodation.
Grievance and Appeals Processes
Students who think they have been denied equal access to the College’s academic programs, resources, or other services because of a disability may file a detailed written grievance with the Provost’s Office as soon as possible after the alleged discrimination occurred, but in no event more than 60 days thereafter. In order to establish the basis for such a grievance, students must have filed a Disability Accommodation Request Form and supporting documentation with Academic Services (for academic accommodations) or Student Life (for housing and dining accommodations) and discussed their request with the Assistant Director of Academic Services or the Associate Dean of Student Life. The College encourages students to speak first with the Assistant Director of Academic Services or Associate Dean of Student Life in order to resolve their complaints informally. If informal steps do not satisfactorily address the complaints or there is a complaint about the Assistant Director of Academic Services or Associate Dean of Student Life, students may file the written grievance described above to the Dean of the College, who serves as the College’s Section 504 Coordinator. The Dean of the College will investigate the complaint and issue a report, normally within 30 days. The Dean of the College's contact information is Brian Michael Murphy, Dean of the College, 802-440-4400.
Appeals process: Students who are not satisfied with the Dean of the College's decision may file an appeal by contacting the Provost. Appeals must be submitted within seven business days of when the student receives notice of the Dean of the College's decision. The Provost may affirm or modify previous decisions made and/or may send the matter back for reconsideration by the Dean of the College. The Provost will communicate a final decision to the student in writing. The Provost’s contact information is Maurice Hall, Provost, 802-440-4400.
Transitioning to College
Because colleges fall under different laws than high schools, students and families will encounter many differences. Please refer to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) letter to better understand your rights and responsibilities.