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Florida College Rejected Applicants with Mental Health Issues

A senior official at the New College of Florida instructed admission staff to engage in practices that discriminate against applicants who disclosed mental health-related issues.

Last week, the Inspector General for the State University System Board of Governors submitted a report that found former Dean of Enrollment Management Dr. Joy Hamm involved in instructing his staff to red-flag applications that disclosed mental health or disability-related issues in the personal essay part.

The unilateral decision taken by Hamm resulted in admission denial to students who revealed mental health issues between 2018 and 2019 admission cycles.

“Most of the readers admitted to “red-flagging” application files for mental health or disability-related disclosures because of the instructions they received from Dr. Hamm,” the report read.

“They expressed discomfort with the process and indicated they discussed their concerns with one another, as well as with their immediate supervisors in most cases. None of them felt comfortable bringing their concerns to Dr. Hamm directly, expressing there was a strict expectation of following the chain-of-command.”

The investigation was started by the Office of the Inspector General and Director of Compliance (OIGC) after receiving a complaint that alleged school of mishandling investigation into Hamm’s discriminatory practices.

The school has appointed Sonia Wu, an alumna who has served thirty years with the college, as Acting Dean until an independent Interim Dean is appointed.

Furthermore, the college has accepted various recommendations made in the report which includes commissioning an independent review of the materials of applicants submitted in the recent admission cycles and take appropriate actions.

“I am committed to combatting discrimination and unfairness in all forms, including anything that may create a barrier to admission for qualified students with any type of disability, including a mental health issue,” College President Donal O’Shea said.

The school will also collaborate and work with various stakeholders including Disability Rights Florida, and former Executive Director of NAMI Florida Alisa LaPolt, to review its systems, processes and application procedures and recommend improvements.

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