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PhD candidate seeks reinstatement amid Ed. Dept. investigation into Brown

GLO delivers petition to reinstate DEEPS student Meg Wilson to Paxson’s office

Since Meg Wilson — a PhD candidate in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences — was dismissed from her program in January, a group of students and members of the Graduate Labor Union have petitioned for her reinstatement. 

Wilson alleges the University retaliated against her academic accommodations by placing her on academic warning, failing to provide accommodations in a timely manner and restricting her access to Brown resources, among other claims. Her allegations of disability discrimination are being investigated by the Department of Education, The Herald previously reported

In a message to The Herald, Brian Clark said the complaint was “without merit.” He pointed to the Department of Education’s January letter about the opened investigation, which stated that opening investigations does not indicate an evaluation on the validity of complaints.

Last Wednesday, Wilson and roughly 20 GLO organizers and community members met outside University Hall to deliver a petition to President Christina Paxson’s P’19 P’MD’20 demanding Wilson’s reinstatement. The petition currently has over 800 signatures.

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Wilson and participants presented a copy of the petition to a secretary in the office of President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20. University Spokesperson Brian Clark later confirmed that Paxson received the petition in an email to The Herald. 

“Going public with the petition was a last resort, and I really wanted folks to understand the severity of my situation,” Wilson wrote in a message to The Herald. “Accountability is key, and if Brown’s internal procedures fail you, you can still get help.”

Representatives for the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, where Wilson was enrolled, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment on Wilson’s allegations or the Education Department investigation. 

“Brown is deeply committed to sustaining a campus in which every student can fully participate in academic and co-curricular activities, and routinely provides accommodations for students with disabilities to ensure equitable access to courses, services and programs,” Clark said. 

Documents and email correspondence reviewed by The Herald show how Wilson navigated lengthy accommodations processes while attempting to fulfill her program requirements.

The January letter from the Department of Education reviewed by The Herald notified Wilson that the Department’s Office of Civil Rights, or OCR, would investigate three out of five allegations related to disability discrimination and retaliation during her time in the DEEPS graduate program.

The OCR dismissed Wilson’s claim that the University had discriminated against her based on her disability status by issuing an academic warning.

Wilson also claimed that Brown placed higher expectations of academic standing on her by requiring that she submit a chapter for publication in an academic journal. The department later clarified that Wilson did not need to fulfill this requirement, so OCR also declined to investigate this claim.   

The Department of Education is currently investigating Wilson’s claims that the University threatened her funding after providing her accommodations, restricted her access to resources such as lab access and advising, and did not provide appropriate communication regarding her accommodation decisions. 

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations” — including privately-funded universities. In addition, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, colleges receiving federal funds including Brown must protect students with disabilities. 

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Wilson, who was registered with Student Accessibility Services, first faced an academic warning in May 2023 due to “insufficient progress in (her) research,” according to a letter from her advisor. The letter outlined new thesis requirements for her to meet by Aug. 11. 

In early June, she appealed the academic warning in a letter. She later requested an extension of the academic warning on the basis of her disability, which was initially denied and successfully appealed.

After an initial rejection and successful appeal, Wilson received an approved accommodation letter on Aug. 10, one day before the original deadline in her academic warning. 

The accommodations gave her the option to extend the deadline by more than four weeks to Sept. 15. Wilson’s funding status would depend on work she submitted before Aug. 11. If that work was deemed insufficient, she’d lose funding until her additional work was reevaluated, after the Sept. 15 deadline. 

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Wilson alleges that this constituted discrimination because the University did not guarantee ongoing funding if she accepts the accommodations. The OCR is currently investigating her claim. 

Wilson claims she lost access to her lab on Aug. 14. A day after, Wilson’s advisor told her to secure advising from a different faculty member, according to an audio recording reviewed by The Herald.

These actions, among others, amount to retaliation against Wilson for requesting accommodations, she alleges. The OCR is investigating these claims.

Wilson received a letter on Aug. 31 informing her that she’d remain on academic warning in fall 2025. In late October, she received another set of thesis milestones required by Dec. 15. If she did not submit documents of sufficient quality by then, she would be dismissed within a month, the letter said. 

“I had exhausted every resource, every office that Brown had for support. I received either no help, or extremely limited help,” Wilson wrote in a message to The Herald on her decision to submit a complaint to the OCR. “There were a few individuals who wanted to do more, but were unable to. The (Department of Education) was the only group left who could help me.”

On Jan. 3, after Wilson contacted the OCR, she received a letter from DEEPS, reviewed by The Herald, communicating that she had been terminated from the PhD program. According to an email from a DEEPS representative, the department’s committee voted unanimously that Wilson had failed to meet the requirements to continue in her program.

Wilson appealed the University’s decision on Jan. 12, claiming factual inaccuracies in the dismissal letter and demanding to be reinstated to the program in good academic standing. She is currently “filing a grievance against my department and the University’s handling of this,” Wilson said.  

Neither representatives from the University nor DEEPS responded to comment on Wilson’s allegations nor the investigation, citing the federal nature of the case.

Andrew Clark GS, communications director for GLO, alleged that Wilson was “denied accommodations that she needed,” impacting her ability to conduct her research.

According to an email from a Department of Education representative to Wilson, the OCR is currently analyzing “an initial production of data and information” from the University as part of their investigation.

“I really do love this university. I’ve been so proud to be a Brunonian, and the research opportunities that DEEPS has given me have been so incredible,” she wrote. “All I am asking for is the opportunity to do the work.”

Additional reporting by Maya Nelson


Samantha Chambers

Samantha is a University News editor who oversees the Affinity & Activism beat. She is a sophomore from Tampa, Florida concentrating in Sociology. In her free time, Samantha likes to cook and watch Survivor.


Jennifer Shim

Jennifer Shim is a University News editor overseeing the staff and student labor beat. She is a sophomore studying Applied Math-Economics. Outside of The Herald, you can find her playing NYT Connections.



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