DCL fails to fulfill housing accommodations
Students with disabilities wrote a petition to advocate for their previously promised housing accommodations.
On March 30, shortly after assigning students with their selection numbers, the Department of Community Living released housing options for students who applied for housing accommodations for the upcoming academic year. However, numerous students have reported that their housing offers have not been suitable in terms of the DCL-approved accommodations. Additionally, many juniors and seniors were not offered housing accommodations because their randomly-assigned housing numbers were too high. In response, two students from the Disabled Students’ Network created a letter template for students to sign and send to DCL to advocate for impacted students. Due to the initiative’s strong support, the plan evolved into a petition that has been signed by 182 students, 19 alumni, and 26 relatives, as of press time.
The petition specifically cites DCL’s lack of transparency with students in need of accommodations. According to the petition, DCL has prevented “disabled students from making the proper arrangements to seek off-campus housing alternatives” and prevented them from “forming and/or joining housing groups in the general selection process” because they did not expect to have to make plans in the instance that DCL would refuse previously promised accommodations. Furthermore, the petition stresses that this refusal threatens students’ right to equal access to education, creates possible academic and medical issues, and has the potential to cause homelessness.
DCL’s accommodations page specifies the general process for getting accommodations approved. However, they direct students to the Student Accessibility Support housing accommodations page for further details regarding the request process.
Bryn Zilch ’24, who is helping run a student-led investigation of DCL through a Discord server to discern why some students’ accommodations were rejected, elaborated on the issue in an April 3 interview with the Justice.
“DSN and all of the other people involved in the petition mainly have the goals of getting DCL to give the accommodations to the students they promised them to,” Zilch said. As an example, they referenced a hypothetical student with an approved ground floor accommodation receiving elevator access instead. Zilch explained how this alteration is dangerous in emergency situations because the student is unable to use the stairs. “We’d like a future, explicit policy of guaranteeing accommodations to [all] students with a documented medical need, [regardless] of the scarcity or abundance of housing overall or the student's class,” they added.
The largeness of the class of 2026 has sparked housing concerns among students, and some students have suggested that this high admittance rate has created less flexibility for necessary accommodations. “This is a direct result of Brandeis over-admitting students, they’ve openly stated that they have never had to deny housing like this, but there’s just too many [first-years] and sophomores. I’m really discouraged to see Brandeis prioritizing financials over disabled students and ADA compliance,” a student from the class of 2025 said, requesting to remain anonymous to avoid housing-related retaliation from DCL. They did not clarify where this statement from the University can be found.
The student said that they applied for and were approved for accommodations through DCL, but on the day they were supposed to present students with their options, DCL said they could not provide housing due to the student’s number. “Last year I was given the same accommodations as [those that were] approved for this year, and received two options that directly fit all my accommodations. I also had a very high number last year, and got my first choice of the options. I didn’t hear about anyone not receiving [housing that fulfills] their [approved] accommodations,” the student recalled about last year’s housing process. They mentioned reaching out to DCL and Student Accessibility Support regarding their current concerns, but they have not received any meaningful responses.
Meanwhile, Zilch said they have not reached out to DCL, beyond signing the letter template created by DSN-affiliated students. “I’ve been more focused on trying to figure out their exact criteria for denying people housing, because they claim it was based on [housing numbers], but it very clearly was not,” they explained, referencing the research of students in the DCL Evidence Discord Server.
The students created an anonymous Housing Accommodations survey that collects data about students who had their housing request either approved or denied. They are compiling these responses on a spreadsheet in order to determine if students’ housing numbers correlate with their approved accommodations being fulfilled. Zilch said that the data collected from the form suggest that SAS’s claim that accommodation approvals rely on housing inventory and selection numbers, and the DCL’s claims that denials of housing were based on lottery numbers, are untrue.
“It seems arbitrary,” Zilch said, referring to the relationship between housing numbers and outcomes collected by the form responses. Among other examples, they mentioned a rising junior with a number above 2100 receiving a single in a suite, while another rising junior with a number slightly lower than the previous student’s was denied a single, despite having no preference. For reference, rising juniors can receive housing numbers between 1201-2700, and the lower their number, the earlier they can make their housing selection. “They cannot claim it was numbers-based, given this evidence. But I don't see their denial criteria from this list. So they need to be much more transparent about how they picked, because they're clearly lying and hiding something,” Zilch claimed. They explained that this data differs from DCL’s statement that housing numbers might affect a student’s options, rather than determine whether the student would receive housing at all.
In terms of the University’s accessibility for students with disabilities, the lack of fulfilled accommodations is not an isolated problem. Zilch highlighted that there have been numerous accessibility oversights that have made students feel marginalized within the community, specifically referencing recent Accessible Transport Van restrictions. In a short exchange on the Discord server, students noticed that while the AT van previously took students to their classes, housing, dining halls, the health center, Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, and CVS, this semester the AT van will only provide transportation to their classes, housing, and dining halls.
Zilch also mentioned that there are various inaccessible buildings around campus, such as the Goldsmith Building and the Sherman Dining Hall, since their accessible entrances are obscure. “Some buildings you can’t even get into without taking stairs, and many buildings do not have elevators to allow people to access higher floors,” Zilch said, adding that they could not find a way to get to the top floor of the Goldsmith Building without using a staircase.
“A lot of recent [issues] have disabled students feeling like they’re no longer welcome on Brandeis’ campus. It feels like Brandeis is doing everything possible to push disabled people away, as if they don’t deserve a full college experience just because they happen to have a disability.” Zilch explained that this feeling of marginalization was intense enough to lead them to believe that a fake April Fool’s Day Instagram announcement by Brandeis’ satire magazine, Gravity, was real, as it claimed that Ron Liebowitz said that the University was no longer guaranteeing housing for sophomores. Zilch said the housing situation is so fraught that it took them a moment to realize the post was fabricated, since “some day in the future, it could become real,” they said.
—Editor’s note: Editor Cameron Cushing ’23 is employed by the Department of Community Living as a Community Advisor. He did not contribute to or edit the parts of this article pertaining to DCL.