Accommodations and Support

STUDENT HANDBOOK: Academics - 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 advising, and health and psychological services. These services, along with Bennington’s small classes, easily accessible faculty, and an individualized approach to education, create an environment where students thrive and learn to take increasing responsibility for their own education, their own work, and their own lives.

Requesting Accommodations

All students with disabilities are encouraged to work with the Director of Student Accessibility Services to request reasonable accommodations. 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 Request For Disability Accommodations under the appropriate sections in StarRez. Please use the appropriate form for academic, housing and dining accommodations within the StarRez student portal. (Please note: students must use their Bennington email address to log in.) Requests for accommodation must be as specific as possible and must be accompanied by the Documentation of Disability form, which will be provided via StarRez.

Students are expected to work cooperatively and communicate effectively with the Director of Student Accessibility Services to determine reasonable and appropriate accommodations. All requests for reasonable accommodations are reviewed 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 7 for spring term (these dates vary for Master of Arts 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 in StarRez 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 Director of Student Accessibility Services. 

Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESA)

Bennington College recognizes the importance of service animals, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), and the broader category of “assistance animals,” which includes emotional support animals under the Fair Housing Act. Service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs) provide 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 permits emotional support animals (ESAs) for students who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major activities. An ESA is prescribed by a  mental health professional and an integral part of a student’s treatment. The ESA must demonstrate excellent temperament and reliable, predictable behavior.

The following policy explains the specific requirements applicable to an individual’s use of an ESA in college housing. Bennington College reserves the right to amend this policy as circumstances require. This policy does not apply to “Service Animals” as defined by the ADAAA.

Students wishing to have an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) must first meet with the Director of Student Accessibility Services, and then complete an accommodation request via StarRez. ESAs are not permitted on campus until the accommodation request has been made, and approved, which may take up to 90 days to complete. Owners of service animals or emotional support animals are responsible for cleanup and any damage caused by their animals, and must take appropriate precautions to prevent property damage or injury. The care, supervision, and well-being of a service/emotional support animal are the sole responsibility of the owner at all times. Students found with unauthorized animals in the houses or classroom or failure to clean up will be subject to the student conduct process.

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. 

Please note that:

  • Bennington College may approve your request to have an ESA, but not approve the specific animal you were hoping to bring. For example, most reptiles and rodents may be rejected because of safety and health concerns, as they can carry zoonotic diseases which pose a threat to the general welfare of residents in the communal living environment. 
  • ESAs are restricted to the student’s room. They are not allowed in academic spaces or common areas in the house or apartment, as others may have allergies. Moreover, the ESA must be contained (caged or crated) any time the student is not in the room.
  • The ESA may not be left in the care of other students or residents. If the student leaves campus overnight, during FWT, for study abroad and during the summer, or at the end of term, the ESA must be taken along (or other arrangements made off campus). This applies to summer and study away, and fieldwork.
  • Students bringing ESAs to campus are fully responsible for the animal’s behavior, and for any damage done. If the ESA is disruptive to the living environment for others (for example, barking or other loud noises, or significant odor from litter boxes or cages), or if there is damage done to housing facilities, the ESA will need to be removed from the premises within 48 hours of notice being given. The student will be responsible for paying for property damage.
  • Generally, if a student is approved for an ESA, the presence of only one ESA will be approved for a student, in order to fulfill the intent of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) requirements in providing support to a student with a mental health disability.

Grievance Policy for Students with Disabilities

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 Dean of the College as soon as possible, but no more than 60 days after, the alleged discrimination occurred. 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 and/or Residence Life, and discussed their request with a member of Academic Services and/or Residence Life. The College encourages students to first speak with a member of Academic Services and/or Residence Life in order to resolve their complaints informally. If informal steps do not satisfactorily address the complaints or there is a complaint about a member of Academic Services or Residence 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 finding, normally within 30 days.

  • Brian Michael Murphy
    Dean of the College
    (802) 440-4664

Appeals Process

Students who are not satisfied with the Dean of the College’s decision may file an appeal by contacting the Provost or designee. Appeals must be submitted within 7 business days of receipt of the Dean of the College’s decision. The Provost or designee may affirm or modify previous decisions made and/or may send the matter back for reconsideration by the Dean of the College. The Provost or designee will communicate a final decision to the student in writing.