Princeton University consistently ranks at the top of all the college charts, but in the eyes of one student, the school is short one accolade — “best university for students with a learning disability.”
On Jan. 11 — just before finals — a District Court in New Jersey will hear the case of a Princeton University student who sued the school for not acknowledging her learning-disability needs for exams.
In Metcalf-Leggette v. Princeton University, 19-year-old Diane Metcalf-Leggette, of Centreville, Va., will argue that her case has merit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Metcalf-Leggette, who is diagnosed with four learning disabilities affecting her ability to read, comprehend, and communicate her knowledge of coursework, takes exception to Princeton’s policy of not granting extended examination time to students.
In October, a federal judge refused a temporary restraining order that would have freed Metcalf-Leggette from having to take mid-term exams without the accommodations she says she needs, including 100 to 200 percent extra time on tests.
Princeton did grant Metcalf-Leggette several accommodations, including the right to take tests in a “reduced distraction testing environment,” a 10-minute break every hour during tests and a one-exam-per-day limit. However, Metcalf-Leggette’s lawyers contend that these policies are still a long way from her rights for “reasonable accommodation” as defined under the ADA.
Princeton is fighting back, saying the ADA does not obligate a higher education institution to provide all recommended accommodations. A university attorney, Hannah Ross, told Metcalf-Leggette in a Sept. 19 meeting that “offering extra time would harm the ‘essence’ of a Princeton education.”
Princeton’s current admit rate for the class of 2009 is 8.4 percent, a testament to Metcalf-Leggette’s academic excellence in the face of significant hurdles. She also is on the school’s women’s soccer team. Prior to college, she received extended time on her SAT, ACT, and in class at her high school, and says she disclosed all disorders to Princeton upon applying.
Admitting a student, and then disallowing the conditions she would need to succeed, is a bad move on Princeton’s part. Still, instead of lawsuits, our schools need better and more universal guidelines on how to treat, accommodate, and educate our future generations.