As I was settling in to write a post about blind representation in the media, I found this fully-written, but never before posted piece. It’s on a difficult professor I had my junior year. She refused to be accommodating, in addition to being a bit of an a-hole to the rest of the class… kay, hope you enjoy.
My first semester of junior year (that was September 2017) had a frantic start:
I was never told that there was a creative writing prerequisite for the concentration of the same name by my advisor, so it was a scramble to find an open class so that I would be on track. I was also attempting to stay on top of the math department because of an incomplete I had taken the previous semester. And, to add a bitter icing to an already unsavory cake, I had a professor who seemed to not want to deal with me (the blind student), or even the rest of her class.
I often tried to speak to her after class, to find out about the quality of readings (if the PDF images were clear, for example, which meant a greater chance of my screen reader being able to understand it). Knowing that would determine whether or not I should go immediately to the Accessibility office. But she gave me the equivalent of a verbal shrug, and basically told me to figure it out on my own. In class, she refused to answer the questions of my classmates. Her reasoning was that she wasn’t here to do the homework for us. We should be reading the text. But sometimes it was a question of clarification. Or a simple yes/no, but she instead took the time to make that schpiel.
There was one instance where I emailed her about an issue I was having with an assignment. I explained about the inaccessibility of some of the online materials she wished us to use. I asked to schedule a meeting so that we could discuss alternatives when they weren’t accessible.
In response, she forwarded my email to a person who, I would later discover, was the head of her department. She told him of the student who wanted to discuss alternate readings for when things “simply weren’t accessible”. But how, she wondered, would that be possible if there were required readings? Should the Accessibility office not have examined this course to see if I could take it? Aren’t they supposed to tell students what they c/cannot take?
My response was to clarify the job of the Accessibility office: they don’t choose which classes I can take, but make accessible whichever ones I choose for myself. I also explained that I didn’t want different readings, but different formats/versions. And I asked if we could simply have a meeting. I also asked in person, to which she responded that I attend her office hours.
“But I have class,” I explained.
“Well, you can call.” She said, meaning during her office hours but… see above.
The next time we had class (it was web-enhanced, so there were days where we worked on line), I called the assistant administrator of the department before we were to meet. I explained my issue and she also stated that I should try for the office hours. Even after, again, informing her that I had class she basically told me that she didn’t know what to tell me. My professor was notoriously strict. It’s one thing to be strict, quite another to be unyielding.
So that day, I approached my professor and asked again for a meeting.
“Come to office hours.” She told me. And I repeated my refrain.
“Everyone has class,” she told me. “But you can also call.”
“Yes,” I like to think of myself as a very mild-mannered individual (well, outwardly, I have a temper in my head), but in this instance I barely controlled myself as I continued: “But its during your office hours. So I can’t make it. Or call.”
“Oh, well, I don’t know what to tell you.”
“Can we have a meeting before the next class? Maybe five, ten minutes before?”
“Well, I can’t promise anything. I don’t know what time I’ll leave the office, so I don’t know when I’ll get down here.”
“Can we talk now?” (There were five minutes left of class.)
“I have a meeting I have to get to.”
So I paused, turned, and walked away. In the moment I could not make sense of it. If these office hours were so important, how did you have a meeting at that time. Later, I realized that it was likely a meeting with a student during the hours. I also thought in the above conversation, the way I had initiated was by asking if she’d received my last email. She told me probably not because she didn’t check her Hunter mail often. But she’d replied promptly to the first email.
After trudging to my next class, I went home and immediately withdrew. I’d had strict professors, but this woman was… something completely other.
I didn’t think of the consequences of my actions: that dropping to nine credits would put my housing in jeopardy as I would now be part-time, or that my credit count could affect my financial aid. I was still dealing with an unresponsive math department, and the workload of my other classes.
Luckily, my financial aid was okay, and as this my first (and only) issue at the dorm, and I had a good explanation for my actions (though rash), I was not penalized.
I later spoke to my accessibility counselor who admonished me for not coming to them with my problem. But they had been unresponsive with regard to my math issue, and I had brought it up in casual conversation to someone who responded with: “Wow, that’s crazy. Keep trying.) (Or something to the effect.) Perhaps I still should have tried, but I did not (and still don’ment) have much faith in the office at the time.
However, my counselor did inform me that while I had written proof of my professor’s behavior, I could have had a bigger case (should it have come to that) had I exhausted all avenues of contact. Or maybe she would have been more receptive to these changes coming from their office. Maybe it would have been easier to understand. But in the moment, my only thought was: I don’t even need this course. It was just an elective. Perhaps I would have fought m/pushed harder if it was a requirement. Or just tried again with a different professor later.
I realized that it was the department chair my professor had emailed when I searched for his contact information. The only number I’d found was for the assistant. But I noticed that the chair’s available contact matched with the one my professor had emailed. To this day, he has never responded. Though I still do plan on sending him, and perhaps the Dean of Students an email. Yes, the ordeal is over with, but maybe it will help some disgruntled student after me.
I never did write that letter. This was the beginning of my academic decline. My motivation started waning, with continued lack of success with regard to math… but that’s a chat for another post. In the meantime, you can read me putting a positive spin on the math stuff here.
Till next time