In 2007, at age 47, I was diagnosed with ADD. I had abandoned pursuit of a college degree 25 years before, thinking I was lazy and unfocused. Of course those of you who have a late diagnosis know what happens to your psyche once you have been diagnosed and a treatment regimen is successful. After a year of seeing how the treatment affected my work and other endeavors, i decided to return to college.
I successfully applied for re-entry to Rutgers University Newark campus. This was the Spring 2009 semester. In the Fall 2009 semester, I sought accommodations. I was not, nor am I now clear on what accommodations I am entitled to with my diagnoses (I was further diagnosed with depression in 2009). I signed all clearances and releases. I got my medical records and submitted them. I submitted to the required intake interview. I even entered into counseling with the campus counseling center.
The counseling turned out to be totally inappropriate for me. It was psychotherapy. He asked questions about my childhood, my growing up, my marriage. This was the predominance of my sessions. I felt like every weekly session was designed to disrobe and send me out feeling naked and exposed. At one point my counselor told me that he was trying to figure out what my problem was. He said that I seemed like a nice guy. Why could i not just get it together and do what I needed to do to accomplish my goal of graduation and teacher certification? You see, despite my faithful application to my medical regime, the rigors of the academic pursuit exposed how I was still subject to the symptoms of ADD and depression. They were yet disaffecting my academic performance.
Every semester I asked about my application for accommodations. I asked the intake counselor. He said that it was with the counseling center. I asked the counseling center. They told me that it was in the office of the dean that was supposed to handle accommodations. I called her office. They had no record of me. I went back to the counseling center, they said it was with the dean.
This went on until May 2013, when I barely graduated with a 2.5 GPA. In New Jersey, the minimum GPA for teacher certification is 2.75, and that GPA requires a substantially higher score on the subject matter PRAXIS exam. I never got the accommodations. I still do not know, have never been officially briefed on what accommodations could have helped me as I struggled through, not intellectually, but psychologically. I would be late for class. I would get demerits for this. Eventually the futility set in and I would not even try. I always felt embarrassed. Once again I felt like I was lazy and unfocused. I eventually did get competent counseling, but it was too late. The damage had been done, and Rutgers still had not authorized accommodations. I would tell professors about my situation. Some were sympathetic. Some were not. They all wanted me to get official documentation from the accommodations office, which despite my cooperation and being reassured that there was nothing else for me to do, was not forthcoming.
I then successfully applied to a graduate program at Rutgers. This only lasted three semesters, at which time I was asked to leave the program, because the same symptoms were happening. At times I would try too hard and that would be my destruction. All in all, I have $150,000 in school debt and no way to pay for it. I cannot become a substitute teacher, because the last semester at Rutgers was unfunded, because I was taking only undergrad courses. I did not realize that these classes would not improve my undergrad GPA. This last semester was when I finally got an ostensible response from a letter to the University president who expressed shock and promised to address my situation. That turned out to be merely a game of CYA. When I realized all of this, I withdrew. Although I informed the dean who the president directed to work with me, I was yet considered as officially withdrawing too late and thus liable for the semester tuition. This resulted in a financial hold on my transcripts. So much for at least gaining classroom experience, building rapport and demonstrating my competence by serving as a substitute teacher.
I filed a complaint in 2011 with the state and in 2015 with the federal government. The state never officially responded. The U.S. Department of Education officially denied my complaint citing untimeliness and failure to follow through with the Rutgers process. I told the investigator that I had. She was apparently told that I had not. I learned eventually that my file was found in the counseling center. They had never forwarded it to the dean that handled accommodations.
I am pressing on. I drive for Lyft. I am working to get my photographic artwork on exhibit and sold. I am working on recording and producing a CD of my many music compositions. I am also working on getting a Commercial Driver License. I have a real estate instructor license. Once I clear the CDL, and especially if I get a job, I will next seek to get a continuing education course approved by the real estate commission. I already have the continuing education endorsement on my instructor license. I have concluded that I need to avoid as best I can any employment that requires a rigid schedule and involves mindless repetition.
I don’t know what to do. My life, and i do not say this with utter hopelessness, is ruined. I am worse off now than I was in 2009. I had $0 debt of any kind, save a tax debt due to my real estate sales success that has since been extinguished. Now I have $150,000 in debt. Everybody I talk to says that Rutgers’ refusal to provide accommodations was illegal discrimination. Yet, no one in authority to do so has helped me. I used to really believe in the system, that I was protected from this sort of thing. New Jersey has the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country, save California. In my real estate pre-licensing courses, I would emphatically urge pre-licensees to take this very seriously, because I do know how at least fair housing cases have been addressed. Now I believe it is all window dressing and that if you are not of the most favored current protected group you are, well, not protected. It is Animal Farm all over again. All protected classes are equal. ..but some are more equal than others.
Is anyone willing to help me?