About this project
Neurodivergent and disabled students face significant barriers in academia. Autistic students are among the least represented demographic groups at college, with only 44% enrollment (compared to 67% for the general population), and a 39% graduation rate from post-secondary institutions. Disabled students face a double jeopardy of sorts, because not only do ableism and lack of institutional supports increase the likelihood that we will struggle academically and socially, but failures in these areas can also flag students by administration and law enforcement. For example, in Pasco County, Florida, an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that the Sheriff’s Office was flagging students who were struggling with grades and attendance as future criminals, with the intent to “make their lives miserable,” and was even planning to surveil students who had multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. University administrations as well have implemented policies, such as “Students of Concern” (SoC) reporting, which enable faculty to view disabled students with fear and suspicion, and may discourage students from seeking help and support. These policies create an unsafe learning environment for disabled students, often with explicit goals of weeding out students and setting disabled students up for failure.
The harms that disabled people experience frequently fall outside the scope of legal justice, and a culture of silence reinforces the shame and powerlessness often felt with victimization. The probability of bringing a discrimination case successfully to court, let alone winning, is discouragingly low, and the burden of proof on claimants is prohibitively high. That is why we believe that advocacy beyond the legal arena, including grassroots organizing, is so important for students who have been harmed but otherwise have no platform on which to speak their truths.
It is often said that university administrations have a reliable strategy of waiting for student dissidents and activists to graduate and move on. On this website we have created a permanent space to share stories of students who have been harmed, to expose the systemic ableism and discrimination in higher education, and to track how universities are responding to students' demands for change.
We believe that schools should take a transparent, collaborative, and nonpunitive approach to helping students, and with this project, we hope to promote policies that actually heal and support rather than harm.
About the creator of this site
Bowen Cho is a neurodivergent, queer, and disabled scholar-activist. They are a 2023 Emerge Fellow with the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University.
This project would not have been possible without the support of Kendra McLaughlin, Nick Walker, Shira Collings, and stefanie lyn kaufman-mthimkhulu, who graciously served as advisory board members during the project's development.