Grad Student or Grad Employee?


August 27, 2012 by badacademic2

I mentioned in my previous post that Disability Offices are used to dealing with undergrads.

Faced with grad students, they often are at a loss. Part of the problem?

The nebulous status of grad students. Not quite students, not quite employees. They are both. Funnily enough, what they are classified as varies depending on who benefits. Usually not the student.

Disability Offices usually aren’t used to this. Employees have little to no ADA protection in practice. Your employer can be “kind” in offering accommodations, but is not required to. Example, a professor-friend with a physical disability that had classes scheduled back to back, across a hilly campus.

As a grad student? What if a class is not accessible to you? The classroom can be changed to be accessible. What if the place or time is not accessible because of your disability? Well if you’re me, you are advised to choose other classes. Because clearly your academic choices should be limited thusly.


2 thoughts on “Grad Student or Grad Employee?

  1. rented life says:

    Many years ago I took a class in higher ed while in grad school and we talked about access and disability. A student in a wheel chair pointed out that as a grad student he was having a hell of a time getting around. It was winter and as he began pointing out the difficulty with things like snow, parking and getting in and out of buildings, my eyes were really opened. I plead being bogged down with my own grad school issues–being on medications for depression and anxiety–that I didn’t even consider his issues until he brought them to light. Then I began to realize how few students with visable physical disabilities attended our large campus. He mentioned much of what you have here–the disabilities office had no idea what to do, and that he has to do a lot of extra planning just to get to class. I think of that now, as I adjunct at a school where…well I can’t even figure out how someone with a wheel chair would get into some buildings/offices/etc. That same school let go an adjunct with an invisible illness, because they just didn’t get it. (leaving was good for her, she’s in a better situation!)

    • badacademic2 says:

      Thank you for sharing! Honestly, I think the administrations at these institutions need to do more to make campuses, classrooms, etc accessible for everyone, with all kinds of disabilities. Grad students, like everyone really, play a part in larger cultures of ableism, like everyone plays a part in sexism, racism, etc unless cognizant of his or her own privilege and works to challenge these structures. At the same time, I find grad school also ignores the issues you mention — anxiety and depression — and hell, ignores these serious matters as part of what you signed up for. But at the same time, I don’t think you should feel guilty for not noticing before he brought it up, that’s how ableism works, it’s not meant to be noticed. The only issue is when people are made aware of these issues, and then ignore or forget. That is what I find to be utterly disheartening.

      And you bring up a good point, adjunct life is precarious enough, add in chronic illness or disability, and what seemed so bad continues to get even worse.

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