Creighton University Appeals Order Favoring Deaf Student - Higher Education
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Creighton University Appeals Order Favoring Deaf Student

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by Margery A. Beck, Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. ― Creighton University is appealing a federal judge’s ruling requiring it to provide a deaf student with special equipment and interpreters to allow him to finish his last two years of medical school.

U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp ruled in December that Creighton University’s medical school must accommodate Michael Argenyi’s disability. Last month, the judge ordered the Omaha university to pay nearly $500,000 in Argenyi’s legal fees.

Late Friday, an attorney for the private Jesuit college filed notice of the school’s appeal.

Argenyi was accepted to Creighton’s medical school in 2008 after disclosing that he was hearing-impaired and requesting accommodations for his disability to allow him to follow lectures and communicate with patients.

But Creighton’s medical school refused to provide Argenyi with a system that transcribes spoken words into text on a computer screen and a cued speech interpreter that Argenyi had used as an undergraduate student, earning a 3.87 GPA.

Instead, Creighton used a microphone system that emitted frequencies to be picked up by Argenyi’s cochlear implants. Argenyi said the system was inadequate, and one doctor determined it actually reduced Argenyi’s ability to understand his professors.

Argenyi took out more than $110,000 in loans to pay for the assistance himself, but said he was forced to take a leave of absence in his third year when the university refused to allow him to have an interpreter to interact with clinical patients — even if he paid for it himself.

He sued in 2009, and a federal jury last year found that the private Jesuit school had discriminated against him.

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Following the judge’s ruling, Argenyi re-enrolled at Creighton to finish his final years of medical school. He is slated to resume his studies July 2, his attorney, Mary Vargas, said Saturday.

“He remains, as always, focused on his studies and on pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor and serving the deaf community,” Vargas said. “He hopes, in time, that Creighton will be proud to have him as a student.”

The school will provide Argenyi with the captioning equipment and interpreters when he resumes his studies this summer while the school’s appeal is pending, Creighton attorney Scott P. Moore said Saturday.

“The objection that we had was that we were not allowed to present to the jury how much it would cost the school to provide those things,” Moore said. “The jury didn’t get to decide whether that cost was an undue burden to the school.”

Moore estimates it would cost the school $300,000 to provide the equipment and interpreters for two years.

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