The Abrupt End to my "Almost" Law Degree

In my experiences, Thomas Jefferson Law School has most definitely not been a disabled friendly Institute during my years of matriculation. In fact, when I first arrived at the school, the one of the Leading academic professor for incoming students told me that “disable people don’t graduate from here so don’t bother starting”. Despite all efforts and diligent work, he repeated the same sentiment when I ended up the week before finals of my first semester in the ICU with severe septicemia and pneumonia despite having been at school the day before. A sentiment repeated to a fellow student.

I have been five units away from law degree for almost 15 years. It is important to note, that it has been and continues to be my dream to complete my degree. This has never waivered. I have communicated this on numerous occasions throughout the years between matriculation and present day. Sometimes, albeit, sparsely as I encountered numerous problems over the past decade plus, including the development of dysautonomia, Myasthenia Gravis, numerous surgeries, several fusions, birth of my children and battling on a regular basis for maintenance to life saving treatments.

To be fair, I will mention that TJSL did give me extended time to complete my independent coursework, unfortunately, at that point in time I have not yet recovered from an erroneous treatment. (There was a significant pharmaceutical overdose in a compound intrathecal treatment. Lawyers did not take the case as their wasn't a financial lost as I was not yet working as an attorney.) As the years pass I was still unable to complete my course work due to other disability related challenges including the development of Dysautonomia, myasthenia gravis, two neck surgeries and a back surgery, in addition to multiple intrathecal pump replacements.

As mentioned above, I had been in semi regular contact with the law school. Continuously being told there is no exception to the rules for completing a degree with the six-year term limitation defined by the ABA. It was during one such communication that I was referred to a person to speak to at the ABA. The tone of the email left one believing should there be an exception, they would apply. Especially as during these communications, it was said that "their hands were tie" or beyond their ability to help.

As it happened, I followed said contact. It was than, that I discovered there is now an exception on the books that allows a school to apply a discretionary exception to the time limitation by including a note as to said reasons within the individual's file. One of my treatments for myasthenia gravis, Dramatically improved my cognitive abilities including increasing my ability to focus and verbalize thoughts.

As such, I once again, resumed communications with TJSL fully expecting to be assisted. I had even reached out to local schools to confirm the ability to take classes locally. My HIGH hopes for completing my degree were crushed by a series of two emails. (These will become the last form of communications that I have received from the Dean/President in over 2 years, irregardless of the form of communication i initiate.)

Initially, I was told that the discretion could not apply to me as it was not yet on the books while matriculate. In a follow-up email, I was told that the exception would not be applied due to the large span of time between matriculation and the date of the email. I was completely blindsided by such a response. Most especially as previous tones of email messages implied their willingness to help but unable to do so with the "than" constraints.

Interesting that TJSL can take my money for 83 units and refuse to offer me anything in return. I have asked if these units can be applied towards a different degree. This, of course, never received a response. I offered to take additional classes, tests, or anything else within reason. Being a lawyer was a dream of mine going back as far as my early teen years. I had always wanted to be a social justice/civil rights lawyer and politician working to serve the "underserved" populations. This dream was embedded in me prior to the onset of my disabilities. That being said, all the challenges I have faced and continue to face ignites this "inner fire" that much more.

I am a realist and realize it's incredibly unlikely that I will be able to sit for the bar exam. However, such a degree is especially useful in my efforts as a rare disease patient advocacy.

Please note, On the whole I’ve had a great experience with the teachers at the THSL, but for one who told me that disabled people don’t graduate. My issue lies strictly with the Dean and other administrative staff that have refused to apply an exception that so clearly fits my unique situation as well as refusal to reply to any messages either verbal or through mail.

12 views0 comments