Section: News

SASS launches new academic accommodations procedures

On Jan. 20, Acting Provost Sheryl Hemkin sent a Student-Info email relaying information from Kenyon’s Student Accessibility and Support Services (SASS) office regarding the school’s new procedure for testing accommodations this semester. Under these new procedures, students who demonstrate need are encouraged to arrange testing accommodations directly with their professors instead of with SASS. 

According to the email, this administrative change was made so everyone involved with the accommodation process could work together and plan accommodations in advance. In the past, students coordinated primarily with SASS to reserve a time and space to take their tests if they needed special accommodations. The new procedures relieve SASS of some of the burden of meeting all of these needs. 

 Kyle Boozer ’25 noted that these changes are substantial because they incentivize instructors to help their students prepare specialized testing spaces and also help lessen the pressure on SASS to meet the needs of each student who requests testing accommodations. Beyond this, he also acknowledged the additional benefits the new procedures offer students during the time they are taking their tests. “SASS is trying to make it so that hopefully teachers can actually have to create their own spaces for students to take tests instead of strictly relying on SASS, which I think could be helpful because some teachers might get more involved,” he said. “It might be better because then they’ll be around their teacher more to ask them questions, because the teacher is going to be the one creating the space. Whereas when you’re in Chalmers [Library] taking it, if you have a question, you can’t really ask anybody because the teacher’s not there.”

These changes come in response to the increased need SASS has seen in recent years for accommodations. According to acting provost Dr. Sheryl Hemkin, the number of students needing testing accommodations in the 2009-2010 school year was about 90 students, while this year, SASS received more than 800 requests for accommodations. 

 SASS Director Ruthann Daniel-Harteis also explained that as more students request accommodations, it is difficult to plan in advance to ensure that there is enough testing space available for everyone on any given day. “Part of what is challenging about how accommodated testing works is the ‘surprise’ factor,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian. “It is hard to plan for how many people will be taking tests on a specific day, who might be using specific accommodations for a given test and if the faculty will be able to accommodate the student’s tests in the classroom. Then we add in the potential need for securing ‘overflow’ testing space near classrooms or elsewhere on campus at the last minute, which makes it even more complicated.”

Considering that about 20% of Kenyon students now receive testing accommodations, Hemkin believes these changes are necessary to support student success. “It’s my sincere hope that this will put us on track to helping everyone perform better, take their exams with less stress and hopefully that will be a really much better outcome for everyone,” she said. “I know it’s a change in the process, but aside from the few growing pains that we might have, I hope it’s going to be a much better outcome.”

Liz DeProspo contributed to reporting.

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