Waivers and Substitutions

General Information

Students should understand that throughout this process SAS provides consultations to faculty based solely on students' needs and the impact disabilities may have on specific courses. Academic units determine whether or not a particular course or assignment is fundamental to a degree program. In addition, students should be aware that if they change a program of study, they must submit a new request for an academic modification/adjustment. Modifications/adjustments are approved only for specific programs of study and do not follow students when a program of study is changed.

A waiver or substitution for a course, does NOT automatically entitle students to register for classes for which the original course is listed as a prerequisite. Any student seeking to register for a course having prerequisites, for which that student was granted a waiver or substitution due to a disability, must first obtain the permission from both the program in which the student is seeking a degree and the department in which the course is offered.

Student Responsibilities

It is a student’s responsibility to initiate the process of requesting academic adjustments to his or her program of study. In order to request an academic adjustment based on a disability, a student must have an open case at SAS. Opening a case means supplying appropriate disability documentation and having a currently approved academic adjustment plan.  All students requesting course waivers or substitutions must sign a FERPA release to allow SAS staff to confidentially discuss disability-related information with faculty/staff committee members.

Working with a SAS staff member the student should write a letter requesting the modification/adjustment being sought and address it to SAS. The student’s letter should:

(a) state whether a waiver or substitution is being requested;

(b) state exactly which academic courses or requirements fall under this request; be certain to include advanced courses whose prerequisites include courses affected by the academic modification being requested;

(c) include the following sentence: “I grant the staff of Student Accessibility Services at GCC permission to release medical information they judge necessary for understanding the academic impact of my disability to individuals in those academics units who will review my request, and to discuss my disability with those individuals in the context of reviewing my request.”

A student may include evidence that he/she has made a “good faith effort” to satisfy an academic requirement. Such evidence includes, but is not limited to, documentation of any or all of the following:

(a) Satisfactory attendance and punctuality in class

(b) Active participation in class, including a letter of support from a course instructor

(c) Journal indicating time spent outside of class working on course material

(d) Visits to an instructor during office hours

(e) Use of support services available at GCC, including but not limited to tutoring at CES; assistance from Counseling & Student Success; and/or assistance from the Writing Center, including a letter of support from a staff member

(f) Use of services available through GCC’s Student Accessibility Services

(g) Meetings with private tutors, including letters of support

(h) Satisfactory completion of course assignments, both graded and non-graded

Student Accessibility Services Responsibilities

When a student’s request for an academic modification/adjustment is supported by their documentation, SAS must convene a committee to review the request. The members of this committee will vary depending on the nature of the student’s request. Reviews must be completed within 60 working days from the receipt date of a student’s letter and supporting documentation unless the chair of the review committee determines that there is good cause for an extension. Review committees should consist of the following individuals:

• the staff member from Student Accessibility Services who worked with the student in preparing his/her request for a modification/adjustment. This individual will chair the review committee;

• the department chair/coordinator of the program to which the academic adjustment is requested;

• at least one other faculty member of the program/department to which the academic modification/adjustment is requested. Preferably these individuals should be instructors of the courses directly affected by the adjustment being requested;

• the Dean or Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.

Review Committee Responsibilities

The consideration process should include the following elements:

  1. The decision must be made by a group of people who are trained, knowledgeable, and experienced in the area;
  2. The decision makers must include a consideration of alternatives as essential requirements, and;
  3. The decision should be a thoughtful, careful, and rational review of the academic program and its requirements.

The committee will meet to review the student’s request for a substitution(s) or waiver(s). During their review, they should consider what skills, assignments, courses, deadlines, etc., are essential to the degree in question and whether or not the requested adjustments would fundamentally alter the nature of the program. At issue is the balance between providing academic adjustments to students with disabilities to ensure that the requirements of classes/programs do not discriminate, and the College’s obligation to ensure that all students meet essential requirements needed to successfully complete programs of study. Modifications/adjustments can be required if the requested substitution or waiver does not lower academic standards, fundamentally alter the nature of the program, or impose an undue burden and if the adjustment meets the underlying reason for the requirements for which a substitution or waiver is being sought.

The committee makes the final determination with respect to the academic adjustment requested. In cases, where the committee rejects the requested adjustments, they may suggest other that would be acceptable.

A letter to the student making the request from chair of the review committee documents the decision that results from this process. The letter should

(a) describe the process used to review the student’s request, including the names and positions of those who participated in the review;

(b) in cases where a request is denied, explain the reasoning supporting the view that granting the student’s request would fundamentally alter the program in which the modification/adjustment was requested;

(c) in cases where a request is approved, state exactly which program course(s) and requirement(s) are covered by this substitution or waiver;

(d) in cases where a request is approved, explain the scope of the approval–for example, does it apply only to one specialization within a major or to an entire major;

(e) in cases where a substitution rather than a waiver is approved, identify exactly (including course number and title) the course or courses, offered by GCC, or other academic institution, that are acceptable substitutes; and

(f) in cases where a request is approved, indicate whether or not the student may enroll in more advanced courses in the program that list the original course as a prerequisite.

Note: Because this letter will become a part of the student’s academic record at GCC, this letter must refrain from discussing any details concerning this student’s disability.

The committee’s letter and all documentation used to support the student’s request and the committee’s decision should be returned to Student Accessibility Services, which will serve as the office of record for these materials. A copy of the committee’s letter only should be forwarded to the Office of the Registrar and placed in Banner as part of the student’s permanent academic record.