Kelli Sem has wanted to be a pharmacist since high school, but the 22-year-old says the North Dakota State University Pharmacy School is standing in her way. Despite her great grades, including admission scores exceeding the school’s average, the school has denied her request to be allowed to ask her fellow students to assist her in completing physical tasks required by the program.
Sem, who has cerebral palsy, knew years ago that needing assistance with some tasks might be an issue, so she visited the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy in 2012 to ask its opinion. “The board felt with everything I told them, that accommodations could be made for me to get through schooling,” says Sem. But then in the spring of 2014, as Sem prepared to apply to pharmacy school, the university changed the pharmacy program’s technical standards for students to include new physical requirements. She considers the school’s move to be suspicious.
“I obviously was a little hurt, but at the same time I expected it,” says Sem, about the school’s decision. “I just kind of got the feeling that while they were open in the beginning, the doors were beginning to close.”
Undeterred, Sem plans to apply to the School of Pharmacy in early 2016 and has consulted with a lawyer in case her accommodation request is turned down again. “At the end of the day, all we want is for Kelli to be given a fair shot,” her lawyer, Scott Haider, told the Fargo Forum newspaper.
NDSU declined to comment for this story citing student privacy concerns.