College appeals ruling on disabled student

Dec. 31, 2009 at 1:26 AM
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ROCHESTER, Mich., Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Oakland University in suburban Detroit says it's appealing a court ruling that it must allow a cognitively impaired, non-degree student to live on campus.

The Rochester, Mich., school says student Micah Fialka-Feldman can live on campus during the appeals process.

"The issue is a bigger issue than just Micah," university spokesman Ted Montgomery told the Detroit Free Press.

In a statement Wednesday, the university said the judge's ruling "does not satisfy the legitimate interests of the university's matriculated, degree-seeking students."

Fialka-Feldman, 25, takes courses through OPTIONS, a program designed for students with mild cognitive impairment, but he does not plan to seek a degree. He started at OU in 2003 and has been involved in a wide range of activities at the school, which has about 19,000 students.

After OU first granted, and then denied his request to live on campus, Fialka-Feldman sued last year.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan said last week OU's refusal to give Fialka-Feldman housing was based on "prejudice, stereotypes and/or unfounded fear." The judge ordered the school to lift the housing restriction.

Fialka-Feldman has won wide support among students, which heartens advocates for students with impairments.

"It's a statement about how we in society and the college community embrace a diverse student body. If you look at the type of support he got from the student community at the university, it's quite amazing," said Debra Hart, director of the Education and Transition Team for the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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