An Attitude of Accommodation
By Tim Furnary '03
had a tough first semester at St. Lawrence. I was on academic probation,
snowy sidewalks made me late to one of my classes, and my First-Year
Program roommate wasn't being very understanding.
I was on probation because I struggled with the coursework; I have
a mild learning disability. I had trouble with the snow because I have
muscular dystrophy, and the long, slippery walk was causing my legs
to cramp. As for my roommate, I suppose that happens to anyone.
Today, I'm proud to say I've overcome all these obstacles. Thanks to
the help of Director of Accommodative Services John Meagher, I'm a successful
student. Thanks to milder winters, to determination, and to sympathetic
cooperation from my professors, I'm no longer late to class. And I've
made some wonderful friends whose support and understanding have made
an immense difference.
When I was in 2nd grade I was put into a self-contained special education
classroom, where I stayed until 5th grade, learning how to cope with
my learning difficulties. Then I was mainstreamed, although in middle
school and high school I had a resource teacher to whom I could go whenever
I felt the need. What I learned most throughout my years in school was
how to be independent and, above all, how to ask for help when necessary
- two skills I was told I would definitely need in college.
Thus, when I started the college search process, I looked for colleges
that, projected to an open campus climate. Applicants had to explain
the long-term impact they believed their while not specifically designed
for the learning-disabled student, would provide not only access to
the needed accommodations but also the attitudes that I knew I would
need to call upon from time to time. I chose St. Lawrence over several
competitors because that's where
I found those accommodations and attitudes that would most likely allow
me to succeed in the normal college environment. The providers of accommodative
services at the other schools had not been especially warm and friendly,
but when I met John Meagher I immediately thought, "this guy I
can relate to."
From almost day one on campus, I've stayed in touch with John. We developed
an Individual Education Accommodation Plan, or IEAP, which called for
me to be granted extensions on assignments and tests, to take tests
at a quiet, private site (often that's John's office) and to do essay
tests on a laptop instead of writing the answers out by hand in those
That's the plan that's in place for me - but I cannot stress enough
that it's up to me to ask for its implementation. John is our advocate,
but he treats us like adults - if we don't take the lead responsibility,
we pay the consequences. All students must complete the same requirements
in the challenging academic environment in place at St. Lawrence. John
is there simply to ensure that the services are provided for those who
need them, and who
take the initiative to seek them out.
One of my professors didn't want to give me extended time on a test,
because she thought I would cheat. But she agreed to let me take the
test in John's office at the same time as the rest of the class was
taking it in the classroom. He called her to verify that I was there
- but it was up to me to initiate the request and produce the documentation
that validated it. With John's encouragement, when things became difficult
I kept plugging and learned very quickly that the majority of St. Lawrence
professors really appreciate it when their students seek help.
Overall, the attitude I've encountered at St. Lawrence has been one
of generosity, helpfulness and cooperation, as long as I do my part.
That's good, because if it weren't for the supportive people on campus,
I probably would have transferred out after my first year. This is a
place where it's easy to become known. My FYP professors didn't just
ignore me or let me slip through; they pushed me to improve my writing,
and now I'm on the staff of The Hill News. John Meagher is there to
help, but so is everybody else. I went to SLU because I thought I'd
find a warm and friendly atmosphere, and I did - people care.
Tim Furnary is a sociology major from Rye, N.Y.; he interned at Marsh
McClennan, a New York City insurance brokerage firm, over the summer.
He has held various positions on The Hill News and is the managing editor
in 2002-03. He is a member of Civitas, the campus citizenship organization.