Korinna Hylen – Guest Columnist

I read the Fourth Crown from time to time. The headlines and preview paragraphs usually merit a giggle and occasionally an article link will be worth sharing. Last Friday I was sent a suspicious Instagram post from the Fourth Crown’s official account apologizing for their recent article which was “interpreted as being ableist towards members of the Gustavus community.” Naturally, I decided to read their newly edited, non-ableist version of the article.

The article, Res Life to Require Medical Accommodations for Indoor Housing Fall 2022, is a scathing (and obviously) satirical review of the housing selection process. For those of you unfamiliar with the housing selection process, there are a few major qualms the student body generally has with the experience. Off-campus housing applications are frequently turned down due to unmet technicalities.

All students are required to select on-campus housing before off-campus applications are approved, leaving some students in unpreferable (or without) rooms until late summer.

Upperclassmen prefer to live in apartments or suites, which are severely limited. Student complaints are the most common coping mechanism for our inability to read between the lines when the tour guides told us “90% of the student body lives on-campus all four years.”
Res Life to Require Medical Accommodations for Indoor Housing Fall 2022 is a half-funny, mostly ludicrous reminder of the ableism engrained in campus culture. The thesis of the article concludes that any students who have documented medical accommodations for housing are simply taking advantage of the system. Medical housing accommodations frequently secure disabled students on-campus living quarters with accessible facilities, kitchens, private rooms, and/or their choice of roommates.
Documentation of disability, a lengthy application, meetings with campus health providers, and successful argumentation are all prerequisites to medical housing accommodations. The best joke in the article, which alluded to on-campus physicians and mental health practitioners, is a reminder that securing sufficient documentation is more difficult for students who lack extensive health insurance. The article perpetuates a false narrative that students are able to lie their way through the accommodations process, which harms disabled students in many ways.
Disabled students have grown accustomed to increasing barriers put in place to weed out those who are not deserving of accommodation. We are used to putting in the extra hours required of us to prove ourselves. It’s a convoluted system to navigate while dealing with the existing time crunch of trying to complete a college degree while disabled. Oftentimes we may wish that everyone was granted the housing accommodations they need, though as the fourth crown so eloquently pointed out, that simply isn’t possible.

It’s important that I distinguish myself from Will Smith; I appreciate the satire of the article. There was a half-hearted attempt made in the edits to emphasize that medical housing accommodations are difficult for disabled students to gain. Do I think that comment made up for the blatant ableism and repetition of a single joke that became less funny as the article dragged on? Sure, but hey, that’s the general recipe for Fourth Crown articles, right?!
With that, here are my tried and true suggestions for securing housing accommodations. First off, thanks to internalized ableism, it can often be difficult to even admit to yourself that you deserve to have housing accommodations. I didn’t even think to apply until my senior year and even then, I missed the deadline. Try to get as many people to vouch for you as possible. I had my GAC counselor, accessibility services, off-campus nutritionist and the on-campus dietician help push my request through. Second, don’t do what I did- apply on time! Housing accommodations aren’t granted on a rolling basis but the sooner you get your paperwork in, the better. Third, live with your disabled friends.
They’re the ones who will understand your experience the most. There’s nothing better than being able to take care of each other when you’re having a rough time.

Lastly, and this is the most important piece of advice I have to offer you: don’t let people make you feel bad for using your accommodations. You are the only person who is able to definitively know what you need and how to advocate for it.

When I’m feeling down, I remember the wise words of Armando Christian Peréz: “I’ve been there, done that, every day above ground is a great day, remember that.”

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