In August, I had surgery and shortly thereafter started chemotherapy. Despite being sick, I was only enrolled in 8 credit hours and felt I would be able to handle it. (I did very well in my other classes.)

There was a period shortly after the start of the semester where I got sick from the medication and had a really rough time with homework. I filed for accommodations with the disability coordinator at the school.

I turned in a take-home exam a day late and two homework assignments late. There was no penalty on the exam, but one assignment was reduced by 75% (it was not graded, I just received a flat 25%) and the other was reduced by 50%. I was also yelled at by the professor and had to beg him to take the exam (I was actually in tears saying, "I'm begging you" even though university policy mandated he accept the exam.)

I withdrew from the chemotherapy as a result and my coursework grades significantly improved. However, due to some assignments and an exam being cut from the syllabus, I was unable to recover my grade from the early bit of the semester.

He argues that he felt I was apathetic to the assignments, I did not alert him of my disability, and that he accommodated me by grading the assignments. However, I contacted him early on several times regarding this, but I didn't learn until later that he doesn't read emails (per university policy.)

The disability coordinator made the professor aware and made several attempts to contact him when he was unresponsive to her emails and phone calls. He eventually responded to a letter he received via campus mail. In addition, I attempted to contact him via email. He eventually approached me and expressed that he felt I was apathetic about the assignments.

If my assignments had been graded, I highly doubt I would have received 100% on them. I do feel I performed on par with the others I turned in.

As a side note, he accepted late work with no penalty from other students, but their work was less late than mine.

I contacted the Dean of Students, but unfortunately, the best option is to appeal the grade. The chair contacted the professor multiple times, but the professor maintains he was fair.

My question: Did my professor properly accommodate me? I don't feel as such, but he feels he did. How do I know if he did?

What do I do going forward? It's a really small school and he’s telling everyone how frustrated he his about my complaint, so I feel like even with having submitted a complaint that I've burned a lot of bridges there. I'm a senior and my last course would be with this same professor.

  • 1
    I surely would be more empathic with your situation than him, but it's difficult to say whether he was fair or not. I hope you are well now. Best wishes.
    – The Doctor
    Dec 16, 2017 at 0:37
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    You mention that you were enrolled in 3 courses and thought you could handle it. How many credits total was that? If these were 5-unit courses, that's a full load. And what accommodations were you seeking and what was authorized by the disability office? Is it possible you were overly optimistic about the workload you could handle under the circumstances? Typical disability accommodations are extra time on exams, large type or a reader for sight-impaired students, etc. It's probably not realistic to expect a pass on the assignments; you still have to do all the work. Dec 16, 2017 at 1:07
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    What does "extra time" mean? Disability accommodations are usually quite specific. Do you have the language they used handy? And how many credits were you taking? Dec 16, 2017 at 1:15
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    @NicoleHamilton The "extra time" was supposed to be agreed upon with each professor, however, the professor in question was unavailable. Had I known he wasn't an "email guy", I wouldn't have assumed he was blowing me off. Dec 16, 2017 at 1:17
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    I'd get myself a lawyer and sue the hell out of this godless college. "..withdrew from the chemotherapy.."?!?!? They are making you risk your life for a few credit points?
    – Karl
    Dec 16, 2017 at 22:54

3 Answers 3


I'm sorry you were ill. "Extra time" usually means that one has additional time to complete an exam. For example a student with accommodation might have to take a final exam on the same day as her colleagues, but might have three hours instead of two to complete the exam.

At the two institutions where I've taught, there's a very formal process for notifying professors of accommodations, in which the professor actually signs for having received a copy of the accommodation letter. I can't tell whether that was at work in your case.

The disability coordinator at your school is the one person who should know exactly what accommodations you were offered. Your next step should be to see the disability coordinator, explain what happened, and ask whether you were treated according to the agreed accommodation. If you were not, then either the disability coordinator will work through this or you can use the disability coordinator's statement in your grade appeal.

If you were granted the accommodations the school prescribed, probably you should file that grade appeal anyway, but do not be too hopeful.

I wish you the best of luck in your academic career and in your health. I haven't read "How to pass organic chemistry" yet, but I will.

  • 1
    I had to look twice to find, "part of the precipitate" and couldn't find the propyl people ether at all. (That my be because I'm much older than you are.)
    – Bob Brown
    Dec 16, 2017 at 2:09
  • 1
    Thank you, I hadn't heard of propyl people ether before, but "part of the precipitate" is one of my favorites! Dec 16, 2017 at 20:00
  • 1
    When your parents were young, there was a silly song about a purple people eater.
    – Bob Brown
    Dec 16, 2017 at 20:39
  • "Extra Time" can also be used to mean extra time/days to turn in assignments, but it's usually more specific (like "Extra time on assignments", not just "extra time")
    – cat40
    Jan 25, 2018 at 23:38

My experience is similar to Bob Brown's. Students with disabilities get a written statement from the university office for student disabilities, and this statement specifies what special accommodations are recommended for this student, usually extra time on exams. (The statement does not reveal the nature of the student's disability.) I have always given the recommended accommodations, but only after I have a copy of the statement in my file of course materials. It is the student's responsibility to bring me (physically) that statement, at least two weeks before any special scheduling is needed. If the student did that and I refused to give the accommodation, I might be able to get away with it, but I'd expect to have to do quite a bit of explaining, to the staff in the disability office, to my department chair, and possibly to the dean. If, on the other hand, the student didn't bring me the recommendation, then that's the student's problem (unless, of course, the disability is such that the student can't bring me this piece of paper).

  • There are different disabilities. Some can be accommodated by an extra half hour on an exam. For chemotherapy, it is more likely to be a matter of days when the person is feeling too sick and tired to do any coursework. Dec 18, 2017 at 20:01
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    @PatriciaShanahan I would expect such differences to be taken into account by the disabilities office when recommending an accommodation for the student. It's their job, not mine, to assess the nature and seriousness of the disability and to determine an appropriate accommodation. I'm not even supposed to know what the disability is, unless it's obvious or the student tells me. Nevertheless, in all cases I've encountered, the recommended accommodation has been the same: 50% more time on tests. Dec 18, 2017 at 20:22
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    @PatriciaShanahan: True, but it's not the instructor's job to judge. For the people in the disability office, it's their professional duty to determine which accommodation exactly are appropriate for the student. Every time I get such a document from a student, I never question it -- I just go ahead and provide the listed accommodations, no less, but no more either. It's best when everybody does their own job.
    – zipirovich
    Dec 18, 2017 at 20:24
  • @AndreasBlass: I've seen the accommodation of extended due dates a few times. But as we both said in our respective comments, I allow that only when I see it in writing on the document.
    – zipirovich
    Dec 18, 2017 at 20:28
  • 2
    If the OP's disability office is also using a one-size-fits-all 50% more time on tests, that could be the root cause of the OP's problem. Dec 19, 2017 at 1:21


I'm on your tune on this one. We have a lot of whining students here. But chemo is a big deal. Yeah, you probably got a rum deal. Normally, I am in the man up, suck it up camp, but I would push a little for yourself here. Sometimes you need to stick up for yourself.

(Not as extreme, but I had a similar experience when my old man passed out of the blue...asked for time off during exams to go to the funeral and got static on it. Only took 3 days and watched him get put into the ground in Arlington Cemetary. Was a little bizarre as my little sister ended up getting all her exams cancelled at a normal school. I just asked for a 3 day pass. But when I put my foot down, the commandant backed me up. Really was bizarre I had to. Your chemo is even more extreme.)

Of course what matters at the end is your health, not grades. The "withdrew from chemo" sounds odd.

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