Waivers and Substitutions

Main Content

Waivers and Substitutions

This document details how SIU’s “Guidelines for Requests For Academic Adjustments” should be implemented specifically when students with disabilities request course substitutions or waivers. It describes the process students should use to initiate requests, and it describes the process that Disability Support Services (DSS) and academic units should follow when reviewing requests.

Background Information

Section 504 Regulation at 104 CYR, 104.44 (a) regarding academic adjustments, requires post-secondary institutions to make such modifications to academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate against qualified students with disabilities. The regulation also states that academic requirements that institutions can demonstrate are essential to programs of instruction being pursued by such students, or to any directly related licensing requirement, will not be regarded as discriminatory. Title II of the ADA at 28 C.F.R. 35.130(b)(7) requires reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disabilities, unless public entities can demonstrate that making modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the services, programs, or activities.

General Information

Students should understand that throughout this process DSS 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. Modifications 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. For example, a student majoring in Finance seeking to register for MATH 139, and who was granted a course substitution for MATH 108 (a prerequisite for MATH 139), would need the permission of both the Finance department and the Mathematics department to enroll in MATH 139.

Student Responsibilities

It is a student’s responsibility to initiate the process of requesting academic modifications to his or her program of study. In order to request an academic modification based on a disability, a student must have an open case at DSS. Opening a case means supplying appropriate disability documentation and having an accommodations plan.

Working with a DSS staff member the student should write a letter requesting the modification being sought and address it to the director or department chair of the of the student’s major (or minor) academic program. 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 Disability Support Services and the Achieve Program at SIU 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 services available through SIU’s Learning Support Services, including a letter of support from an LSS staff member

(f) Use of services available through SIU’s Disabilities Support Services

(g) Use of services available through SIU’s Achieve Program

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

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

Disability Support Services/Achieve Program Responsibilities

When a student’s request for an academic modification is supported by their documentation, DSS will attach a letter that (a) details the academic impact of the student’s disability, and (b) explains the documentation of the student’s disability. Forward this letter, the student’s letter and any supporting materials to the appropriate director or department chair.

Academic Unit Responsibilities

The director or department chair of the program to which an academic accommodation is requested, 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 director or department chair of the program to which the academic accommodation is requested. This individual will chair the review committee;

• the undergraduate/graduate director of the program or department, depending on whether the request pertains to an undergraduate or graduate program of study;

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

• the staff member from Disability Support Services or Achieve who worked with the student in preparing his/her request for a modification;

• the Dean or Associate Dean of the College to which the program belongs;

• the Director of the University Core Curriculum when the academic modification being requested includes a University Core Curriculum requirement;

• the Dean or Associate Dean of the Graduate School when the academic modification being requested involves a graduate program.

Review Committee Responsibilities

Generally speaking, 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 University's obligation to ensure that all students meet essential requirements needed to successfully complete programs of study. Modifications 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 modification 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 modification requested. In cases, where the committee rejects the requested modifications, 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 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 SIU, 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 SIU, this letter should 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 Disability Support 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 Director of Transfer Student Services and placed in Banner as part of the student’s permanent academic record.