Category Archives: College life

A Story About A Difficult Professor

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.

1/7/2019:

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

I Love English

I love English.

Like, I adore all things words, and language, and etymology.

***

I’ve made many videos on my math problems at Hunter, and the uselessness of my accessibility office.

But to summarize (as it’s relevant to this post), I’ve taken the same (basic math 101 course) THREE times. Each time, I’ve had a different issue.

The first, a professor who didn’t know how to handle his blind student, and an accessibility office who wouldn’t provide me with braille. The homework was online, so my professor assigned me work from the book and I worked with a notetaker. However, we never had enough time for me to work, then her to scribe. So, consequently, not much studying and failed exams. And I requested a credit/no credit (so the F wouldn’t show up on my transcript).

The second, was a summer course. Yes, it would be intensive, but I would also be giving it my undivided attention.

Here, I worked on the online homework with a classmate. This proved a much more efficient method. However, my proctor was unfamiliar with the math symbols. Like, he didn’t know less than or greater than. And eventually I had to ask my professor for a cheat sheet for him. However, it didn’t prove affective. He still messed things up, and struggled to understand what I told him as he scribed for me. So, even though I received 100% on each homework, I failed each test with flying colors. Which means that I also failed the class. I tried appealing, but didn’t win, as I was still failing even after the proctor was given the sheet.

And finally, last spring semester. I found a classmate to assist me with the homework, and a proctor who knew math. My professor was also wonderfully understanding. So what could possibly go wrong, right?

Well, my classmate was failing math and I think something else, so we couldn’t work together anymore. Of course I’m not upset with her for having her issues, but it made things hard. I was having no additional practice on the work (so failed the next exam), and because we were half way through the semester, it was pretty much impossible to find another notetaker to work with. So I requested an incomplete. But was constantly locked out of the online course.

And both the math and accessibility offices kept sending me to the other and not addressing my issues. Which I’ve learned, from speaking to other visually impaired students is not unusual.

***

I wrote all of that to explain what’s happening with me in school. I took tons of psych credits that are now useless because I don’t have my core math credit, which would allow me to take the math pre-rec for the major. So I started working toward a major in English.

I’d never planned on focusing on English. It would either be a minor (along with religion) or a double major. But after taking my creative writing pre-rec and now currently in my History of English course, I realized that that was a mistake.

Psych is a big interest, one that I’ve been into since I was about eleven. But English is my passion. My love, if you will.

I realized that part of the reason I was so intent on having a career in psychology (with English on the side), was because of the general belief that majoring in English would not yield lucrative career prospects. And forget about music. But that’s what everyone told me. Yet, never the people who were closest to me (my godmother, sister, and friends). They were cool with whatever I pursued. But even in psychology, I heard about what I should do that would make me more money.

When the math trouble started, I began considering other majors and careers. Obviously, English was the runner up. I could become an editor. A knowledge of English would be important, as well as my bordering on unhealthy obsession with reading. And, as a vision teacher pointed out, creative writing is important. Most people think of people studying literature and only being able to become a teacher. But in just about any field, you need to know how to write.

Also, everyone has this image of the starving artist when they hear that’s someone’s a writer, artist or musician. But one can be a legal or magazine  writer, a book illustrator or web designer, and audio engineer or, well, I can’t think of something else. But you get the idea.

And though it’s going to suck graduating in five years instead of four (in addition to math, I’ve had problems with professors, and other accessibility issues), I’m really excited to be studying English.

It’s also disconcerting, I entered college with a plan, almost but not quite down to the classes I’d take. And now I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen after graduation. I don’t even know if I’m going to make it through math 101, and stats so that I can at least have a minor in psych. Will I pursue a masters next? And if so, in what? Clinical psychology? The hugely controversial MFA??

AAAAH! It’s hard. And now telling people that I’m majoring in English without launching into the whole sordid tale. But hey, I’ll definitely be able to study abroad with two years left to go. And I feel really good about this decision.

Now I should probably go back to my homework (ironically, for English). As I’ll be getting sleepy soon.

Stay tuned for another post later this week. I may be feeling good about my major, but my dating life is…😂 (here, just watch)

Kay, see you later👋🏾

A Seat At The Table: Together Yet Alone

There are four of us at this table, each eating lunch, all strangers to the other.  It started with one woman.  Who knows how many people sat down and coexisted with her until they were finished eating or had to get to class.  Then me:

“I found you a seat,” the cafeteria worker says.  “There’s another woman here, is that okay?”

I nod.  And, upon reaching the table, he asks the woman too if it’s alright that I sit.  She says nothing, so I assume she nods as the guy pulls out my seat.  He gets me a fork and napkin then asks my name, realizing that he’d assisted me on-and-off for over a year, but never knew how to address me.

“Lily,” I tell him.  “And yours?”

“Ernest.” Then we part.

As I sit there, eating and scrambling to finish a reading for class, another girl joins us, the only sound of entrance being the slight squeak of her chair.  Had she made some sign to the original table occupant?

As we each sit here, doing our own thing, and thinking our own thoughts, I am struck by how separate we all are though we’re mere feet a part.

The new girl speaks softly.  Oh, does she know the other one? But then I realize that she’s dictating, very likely to her phone.  Now she reads work aloud.  Perhaps an essay?

“Can I sit here,” a soft, slightly accented voice asks to my right.  I nod slightly.  But she doesn’t move.

“Oh yeah, sure.” I hear the shift in the second girl’s voice, from muffled to clear, as she lifts her head from her work.

I too look up and find the place before me empty.  Where had the first woman gone? How had I missed her departure?

That’s when it struck me.  It’s something I’ve always known, even discussed.  But as I sat there, it really sank in: we pass hundreds, even thousands of people each day; all of us in different stages of life, together but apart.  Coexisting.  So I start writing.  Continuing to live my separate life as I sit at a table with two strangers.  The three of us together, but mentally alone.

I scrape together the remaining scraps of my curry chicken and naan—there was Indian food in the cafeteria today—and eat while I begin to pack away my things.

“Excuse me, did you drop your phone? Something fell?” I turn back to the table.  It was the second girl.

“No, my phone’s in my pocket.” Then, after a pause.  “But do you know what fell?”

“Um, I think its a wallet.  I picked it up.”

I put my garbage down and hold out my hand.  She passes it to me.  It was the wallet part of my phone case.

“Thanks,” I breathe, the relief in my voice evident.  “That would not have been fun.”

“No it wouldn’t.” I think the words are sincere, but her tone feels dismissive.

“Thanks again.” If she responds I don’t hear, as I pick my garbage up and turn away.

At last, I’ve interacted, and while I appreciate still having my wallet, the exchange was so lackluster.  But I feel like that’s a common theme.  So many of us no longer care about the person before us, only the virtual one in our hands.  I’m no different, walking around constantly with an earpiece in my ear, making sure I catch every message as voiceover reads it to me.

Looks Like I’m Home

This was originally posted on May 28, 2016, at 4:43 PM on Blogger.

***

“Do you want some?” I’m asked, as a bowl is thrust into my hands.

“What is it?” I reply, a little startled.

“Just eat it.”

For a fully-sighted person, or simply someone with better vision than mine, they might be able to make a guess as to the contents of the bowl.  I, however, do not possess enough vision to do this.  So I ask again, and am met with:

“You don’t want it?”

“Well, I don’t know what it is.”

At this point, I’m either told, with great irritation what it is, or it’s taken away to be offered again later, with an agitated explanation of what it is.

“Here, smell this.” She might say sometimes, quickly brushing something beneath my nose.

I lift my hand to hold it, figure out what it is, and position it better for optimal sniffing, but my hand is pushed aside.

“Just smell it.”

* * *

Those, my darling readers, weren’t the actions of some ignorant person on the street.  But, rather, the actions of my ignorant mother.  It sounds harsh, I know, but it is truth.  The incidents above have been happening for as long as I can remember.

It’s happened a few times with other people, maybe not strangers but family members I don’t know as well.  Perhaps they view it as a sort of game.  I don’t.  And if I express any discontent, it’s never met with understanding, at least from my mother.

The vignettes above are only two examples of her…  lack of understanding, I guess.  It’s a phrase you probably wouldn’t expect from the parent of a legally blind person.  But it’s more common than you might think.

With regard to some things, my father’s understanding and approach to my vision is better than my mother’s: he’s always pushed for me to ask for Braille menus at restaurants (an early form of advocacy), he used to describe the placement of my food as though the plate were a clock face (I always forget to ask where he learned that), and, as I discovered on Thursday, he agrees with my attitude and is entertained by the encounters I have with strangers.  That last is was discovered during a conversation we-my mother, father, godfather, and I-had on our drive home from my dorm.  I was regaling them with tales of people grabbing my arm at street corners, or grabbing my arm and insisting that I sit on public transportation, or grabbing my arm…  well, this could go on for a while.  But the conversation had started after my mom had expressed embarrassment when I asked for a Braille menu in the restaurant we’d gone to.  She’d said it once in the restaurant, and then again in the car.  It always embarrassed her when I did it, she said, to which my father responded: “she’s entitled to it.”

She also expressed “embarrassment” at my responses to strangers.  When I tell someone I don’t need help, or that I don’t wish to be prayed for.  She feels I should just go with it.  They mean well.  I should know when to ask for help, there was nothing wrong with that.  She didn’t want to acknowledge, however, that there was a difference between soliciting assistance and being offered it, often forcefully, regardless of whether or not I need it.

She cited a few instances, even one that I happened to write about a few years ago. Check it out here if your interested.

Some of my mother’s actions and beliefs can be attributed to typical parental behavior.  She worries about me traveling, okay, normal.  She still checked in on and warns my twenty-eight-year-old sister about travel hazards.  She even still looks over and commented while my sister is cooking, offering often unwanted opinions.  But she doesn’t follow my sister downstairs, and take the box of juice out of her hands to pour it.

So, all of that to say…  it looks like I’m back home.  And as you can tell, I’m none to excited about it.  But at least my sister understands (even though she’s gone this first, painful weekend, she’ll be back).  And my Godmother will be visiting in a few weeks.

I’m not going on any vacations: just working and taking a summer class.  So I’ll be dealing with arguments over traveling (the three straight blocks to the train station), cooking/getting food for myself, talking on the phone late (if she hears my voice in the hall), etc, for the next two months.

Yay me (London Tipton voice)…  I hope you guys get that reference.

Well, happy Memorial Day (weekend)

Dating A Blind Person: “I Don’t Think I Do That.”

This was originally posted on May 19, 2017, at 12:59 PM on Blogger.

***

On line dating.

Despite there being millions of people signed into at least one such app or website at any given moment, there’s still some lingering stigma surrounding the process. I was one of those people who thought it was crazy.  I still am, a little.  But with everyone’s faces constantly pressed to a screen, or with voiceover in their ears, “how the hell else are we supposed to meet people?” as a friend once queried.  But even online dating isn’t a fool proof way to get to know folks.  And possibly find your one true love/soul mate (if that’s your thing).

Most of my conversations die after a few days.  Even the ones that last longer eventually die.  With that said, however, in the past year, I have gone on two app-initiated dates.

The first, was, to put it mildly: atrocious.  The guy played dominoes for hours-literally-while my friend and I texted each other back-and-forth about the whole thing (I’d brought her along because, well, I was going on my first informal date with a stranger).  The second was a few weeks ago, and it was, ehh.  The guy and I talked for hours and then never spoke again.

In between those times, I did meet a young man in person (he worked at CVS).  But that didn’t work out either.  He had way too much going on.  And then, after disappearing for a few months, reappeared wondering if I’d treat him to lunch so we could talk.  That thought wasn’t very appealing, especially since I’d begun to get a little bored before we’d stopped communicating.

Over the last year and some change, I periodically forgot about or voluntarily stopped checking the two apps I was using (now only one).  But when I returned, I would strike up conversations or respond to missed messages.

The person this post involves, let’s call him Joe, had messaged me about a week or so ago.  But my responses were usually a few days in coming because of school.  But Wednesday was different.  I was actively responding, and we’d taken our chat to one of those texting apps.

Conversation was going well until he sent me a photo of himself.  My response,, at the end of replying to his other messages was: also, fun fact, I’m visually impaired so pictures mean little to me.

Now, I must admit, I always derive a sort of morbid pleasure from the “big reveal”.  Most people seem to ignore my eyes, assuming their contacts, or just focusing on my chest (I’ve gotten a few messages wherein, shortly after starting a conversation, someone would mention something about my boobs).  So I would bring up my vision whenever I felt the time was right/an opportunity presented itself.  Though there were a few times where I got a blunt “what’s up with your eyes”, or, more cautious, “so are those contact lenses”.  Then they might ask “so how (the fuck) are you texting me?”-give or take the expletive.  Or they’d ignore or gloss over it.  and I would sometimes have to bring it up in later conversation because of the latter reasons.

But this experience was different.  After telling the guy my fun fact, he said:

Oh damn.  Followed shortly by: Um, I’m sorry I wasn’t prepared for that.  I don’t think I do that.  My dog is blind and I’m struggling with him.   I don’t think I can do a relationship with a blind person.

As I retype his words for your reading pleasure, something stands out to me now that I didn’t notice before.  “I don’t think I do that”? What does that even mean? It’s as though I asked him to do jumping jacks on a tight rope.

In the moment, however, I was too focused on the second half of his message which prompted the following response:

LOL, well, I’d like to put it out there that there is a difference between a blind person and pet but, I get it I suppose.

My “lol” came from shocked amusement, further explained in the rest of my message.  So, your pet is blind, and, because of this, you don’t feel you can date a blind human? But on the same token, I guess he doesn’t know how independent or dependent blind people are/can be.  His next message: I hope you understand my perspective sorry I just couldn’t imagine a life with you, had me shuddering.

Whoa.  First of all, who was talking about a life? I cringed a little mentally but didn’t voice my feelings.  And our conversation continued for a few more messages, with me telling him that it was fine. And that  I guessed it was a curveball for both of us; for him, it was learning I was blind and for me, well…  I guess learning that he wasn’t okay with it.

One of my favorite blind YouTubers, Molly Burke, made a video about a Tinder experience wherein a guy was uncomfortable with the thought of dating a blind person.  He loved (I think it was surfing), and assumed that because she’s blind, she wouldn’t be able to do that with him (instead of asking).  Shortly, she found out about a camp in California that taught blind people how to do extreme sports (including surfing).

And watching it, I could imagine someone feeling that way, just going off of people’s reactions to me in the streets.  Sometimes they can’t seem to fathom how I even exist without collapsing in terror at traveling the big city with very little vision.  But it was a little surprising to experience it for myself.  And as I told him, I thought it was so silly.  Maybe I’m a little biased but it seems crazy for someone to just decide this type of person is off limits.  But with that said, everyone has their preferences, right? I like tall guys. Or is it different? Because blind people come in all colors, shapes and sizes. So is it preconceived biases then, that get in the way?

The next thought I had, that I didn’t share with him was that this was great material for the blog.  Especially since I haven’t written in a while (sorry about that, by the way).

The guy also told me, a few hours after I didn’t respond to his last message: also your eyes have that stereotypical blind appearance.

So is the problem my lack of vision and its accompanying misconceptions? Or is it the appearance of my eyes and possibly what others might think? Should I have asked those things instead of saying what I did next?

They do. But that’s actually a very rare… look, for lack of a better term. My eyes are that way from lack of pigment and corneal scarring as a baby

And after some thought, I added: I think I’ve only ever encountered one other person whose eyes were like mine. And what was also interesting was that he was fully blind where I have some vision in one eye.

His last message was Ok, that’s interesting.

Belatedly, I realize that I should probably have asked as many questions about his perception of a blind person as I could.  Perhaps I could have dissuaded him or at least gotten him to acknowledge that you can’t write off an entire group of people…  because of your dog.  But maybe, despite my cool reaction, I was a little shocked.

We’d exchanged only a handful of messages so I had no emotional investment in this.  (My friends might tell you that I might not have been emotionally invested even after weeks of messaging, but let’s not talk about that.) But it was still shocking, for lack of an equally fitting term.

Maybe I could have introduced it better? But I don’t see my vision as a big deal.  I realize that some people do but I’ve come to learn that if I don’t approach it as this, big thing (because it isn’t), then people won’t, usually, treat it like it is.  Sometimes they might still be uncomfortable, but ask questions.  And sometimes they just ignore it.  However they choose to handle it, I think it matters most how I feel and approach it.  And the “fun fact” thing is how I’ve approached it in the past.

But, enough of me, I should be studying for finals anyway. So what do you all think?

I Hate Finals

This was originally posted on December 18, 2016, at 12:21 AM on blogger.

***

Hey all,

Just wanted to let you all know that, though I have two posts in progress, I’m not allowing myself to finish them until finals week has ended. I have two research papers and six short essays to write… yay.

I’m proud of  myself for actually sitting down and writing this. When I’d disappear for months, I would always mentally compose posts explaining my absence, but never actually write them. So see? I’ve grown. (Writing this post is also giving me a few extra minutes of procrastination time… so maybe not too much growth.)

Well, I hope everyone’s weekend is better than mine.

And, for those of you in New York, what do you think of the dramatic weather shift?

#WintersComing