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Guckenberger v. Boston University (Guckenberger II)

8 F. Supp. 2d 82 (1998)

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Guckenberger v. Boston University (Guckenberger II)

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

8 F. Supp. 2d 82 (1998)

Facts

Students with learning disabilities (plaintiffs) filed suit against Boston University (BU) (defendant) for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act with its student disability-accommodation system. Among the issues raised was BU’s refusal to allow learning-disabled students to substitute alternative courses for the foreign-language requirement in the College of Liberal Arts, renamed the College of Arts and Sciences. The district court found that course substitutions were a reasonable modification for BU to make under the ADA unless the foreign-language requirement was essential to the academic track and modification would fundamentally alter the degree program. The district court ordered BU to propose and implement a deliberative procedure for deciding whether course substitutions for the foreign-language requirement would fundamentally alter the nature of the liberal arts degree. The court approved BU to use a preexisting advisory committee of the college to deliberate the issue because the committee was already charged with advising the administration on academic standards. The committee included college faculty and deliberated for over two months. The committee found that the foreign-language requirement was fundamental to BU’s liberal arts program, arguing that foreign-language studies increased technical educational gains for students, laid a foundation for other academic areas, and uniquely contributed to the college’s multiculturalism and push for diverse areas of knowledge. The committee further found that alternatives were not available because no course in English could perform these same educational functions. Instead, the committee identified other accommodations that would assist disabled students in meeting the foreign-language requirement, such as one-on-one course options, free tutoring, and note and test-taking modifications. The learning-disabled students disputed the findings, and the court addressed whether BU met its burden under the ADA.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Saris, J.)

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