Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Judge says non-degree disabled student in Michigan must be allowed to live in dorm at Oakland University

From The AP:

ROCHESTER, Mich. - A judge ordered a suburban Detroit university to allow a non-degree student with a learning disability to live in a student dorm, despite a school policy that allows only students pursuing degrees to live on campus.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan wrote in his Dec. 23 decision that Oakland University was breaking federal law by barring 25-year-old Micah Fialka-Feldman (pictured) from its dorms. He noted a deposition by Mary Beth Snyder, vice president of student affairs, "who referred to some unspecified impact on 'study floors' and 'quiet hours."'

"This assessment instead appears to be grounded on prejudice, stereotypes and/or unfounded fear," Duggan wrote.

Fialka-Feldman's attorney, Chris Davis, said his client wants to live on campus because he has to take the bus to school every day but is involved in student government and likes to attend sporting events.

"It's a convenience issue," Davis said.

Fialka-Feldman, 25, has an impairment that affects his reading and writing and has been attending classes at the school since 2003. He's enrolled in a program for students who otherwise wouldn't be at the university that requires them to take at least three classes at a time.

The Huntington Woods resident said in his lawsuit that the university agreed to let him live on campus but later denied the request.

"I think it's pretty awesome," Fialka-Feldman said Monday. "I'm so happy I've made it this far."

School spokesman Ted Montgomery said the university is evaluating Duggan's order. The judge said his decision is a narrow one and does not clear the way for other students in the same non-degree program to automatically get housing.