October 22, 2009

Accommodation story - wwyd?

11:37 am
Dear Professor X,

I'm registered with the Student Disability Office and I'll need to use a computer to type the midterm. Blah, yak, blah.

Peace dude,

12:14 pm
Dear gromphus,

I can't have any midterms written on a computer given the requirements of the class as written in the syllabus. Blah blah blah.

[NB: Professor X is concerned about internet access. This is just a couple of essay questions: no math, no diagrams. There is no real reason why using an internetless computer should present a problem.]

Professor X

.......Interlude in which Student Disability Office Chats with Professor X........

4:35 pm
Dear gromphus,

If you are sure that you have to work via computer then you will have to vouch that you will not be using the internet and we will attempt to disable it. It might be really, really complicated to disable the internet on one of the computers the SDO has specifically for testing purposes, but if you really think it's necessary for you to use a computer even though I don't want you to...

[NB: The SDO computers, obviously, have no internet access.]

Professor X

Dear Professor X,

Great. Let's do that. I'm afraid it is necessary for me to use a computer, since sustaining rapid writing throughout a long exam, or for the short period of time I could keep it up, is the most efficient way to put me back on the list for physical therapy. /try 1

I'm sorry this is inconvenient for you, but I just kind of like being able to use my arm, you know? Especially since I'll lose my scholarship if I can't take a full load of classes on account of inability to do my work./try 2

No, goddammit, I am NOT going to tell you about my body. I'm already registered with the Student Disability Office; they've approved my accommodation request; is this not enough to tell you that yes, I do actually really need to use a computer to write your wretched midterm?/try 3

You've been my most interesting professor up to this point. You introduced me to actor-network theory; I was planning on taking all your classes. I always go to your office hours even though you're busy with other people because you look at our field with a usefully critical eye. Is it going to be really awkward next time I try to talk with you? Are you going to assume I'm just a troublemaker? /try 4

I love your work, but I'm not sure I would like you personally. Certainly I don't want to trust you with the knowledge of what is wrong with me. Capice? /try 5

I'm a bit surprised at your response, since no other professor has ever had an issue with my need for a computer./try 6

shit./try 7

Thank you for your understanding,

What would you write?
How do you handle these kinds of situations?
Am I being unfair to Professor X?

(And don't these experiences make it all the more wonderful when we find people who are both intellectually badass and deeply good?)

(Finally, how much do we love, love, love the wonderful people at our SDO?)


mk said...

Blargh. First of all? No, you're not being unfair to Professor X, and sadly this doesn't surprise me all that much, given all the shitty and bizarre stories I've heard about Harvard and accommodations. (And not just the kind that SDO would handle, either--I've been in classes with observant Jews who had the worst time with TFs and professors on holidays and Fridays.)

Also? It would not be "really, really complicated" to disable teh internetz, since (unless things have dramatically changed since I was at Harvard) desktops are all connected via ethernet cables--pull the cable. (It would be So easy to spot if you tried to sneak a cable into an exam room!) Even if it's a laptop, disabling the wireless connection is really easy.

So I don't have personal experience with these kind of interactions, other than from the other side of the coin--I work at a high school, and actually this past Saturday I proctored the PSAT in one of the rooms with accommodations.

Given that the SDO handles the "No, seriously, asshole, you HAVE to do this" part of the conversation, I think your response is totally in line. And it's possible that this professor just wants a little reassurance--which shouldn't be your job, but if you were feeling magnanimous, some version of try 6 might be just the thing.

Blargh. I feel like I could keep writing because I'm totally fuming over this! I'm so sorry you have to go through shit like this, and that the burden of educating your own damn professors falls on you. Clearly the faculty needs some kind of 101 training. Might I suggest the title "How Not to Be an Asshole"?

gromphus said...

Thanks for the advice, MK. This is actually at one of the UCs, not Harvard (I generally had good accommodation experiences at Harvard -- must have been lucky). Happy update is that Professor X appears to have totally gotten the picture without my having to sit him down for an awkward conversation. They CAN learn!