Getting It Wrong: Rate Your Students and Ableism

[Possible trigger warning for upsetting and ableist language]

As some of you may know, I am a graduate student getting my Master’s Degree in Women and Gender Studies. I currently have vague career aspirations of getting my PhD or at least remaining in academia in some capacity; my academic interests primarily have to do with feminist disability theory and the body.

I was an undergrad when I discovered Rate Your Students, a blog for college professors and TAs to rant, with anonymity, about the wonderful world of academia–including its apparent hordes of clueless undergrads. I can’t quite remember how I stumbled upon it, but I found it very refreshing. I was probably what the RYS denizens would call a “special snowflake”, or “snowflake” for short–that is, an overeager student who is convinced of zie’s own specialness (however, my low self-esteem may negate such a categorization)–but I found the site a welcome break from dealing with fellow undergrads at my school, many of whom, I felt, fit the “snowflake” categorization perfectly.

Given my disability and resulting limited energy, during this time I was  privately contemptuous of those whom I percieved to be slacking and getting away with it, particularly when I was assigned to work with them on group projects or in discussion cohorts. Inevitably, I would be the one who led the group in discussion–even when I had been the only one to have done the reading–or the one who would do most of the “group” project planning and resulting work. I do not say this to toot my own horn; this information is meant to be context for the reasons that I started reading RYS in the first place.

After this week’s posts on accommodation(s) for students with disabilities, however, I am seriously rethinking my earlier enthusiasm for the site. One professor sent a query to the other readers of the site:

How do you teach a student…who clearly has severe intellectual developmental issues? How do you make sure the other students aren’t held back? What if your course is a small seminar course, not a large course? You have to spend a lot of one-on-one time with one at the expense of several. Why doesn’t the university provide resources for you and this student?

Am I bad teacher for not knowing how to deal with this? Or for not wanting to?

The responses are a motley bunch (the [+] markers denote different responses from different folks), ranging from the awesome to the somewhat reasonable to the awful:

Anyway, I don’t think too much of students who come to me with a letter demanding time-and-a-half on tests. Nor do I pity the poor fucktards when I think of their asking a future boss for time-and-a-half on a project. There are some students who are truly disabled, and truly need accommodations. But ADD is a sad joke. It puts us at the beck and call of every spoiled tool whose parents can find a quack to label the kid as ADD.

I am an academic. I am also a person with disabilities. I know, furthermore, that “difficult” students exist, and in some cases, universities do not provide clear policies for faculty when dealing with students with disabilities. Professors, however, are not usually assigned to be the disability police, and with good reason (see above). From the glut of postings on this topic, the message that I am getting–as a person with multiple disabilities, both physical and other–is that I do not belong in the academy. People with severe emotional or mental health issues, apparently, do not belong in the academy because they freak out the “normal” folks. Furthermore, if I choose to disclose my disability to faculty, I may be subject to disbelief and doubt, due to their past experiences with disabled students. Hell, someone might even rant about me on RYS if I piss them off enough!

I respect the fact that RYS is a site for professors to anonymously vent; all of us need those spaces. Some of us, however, are both hopeful professors and people with disabilities.  Privileged displays of ableism like the above are asking some of us to side against our own, which many of us cannot do.


  1. The level of structural ableism in the academy is pretty amazing; campuses not fully accessible, no programs in place to provide professors with information about working with disabled students, ableist course registration policies (like refusing to let people with disabilities register first to ensure that they get classes in accessible locations), and incredibly poor mental health services. It was made clear to me on repeated occasions when I was in academia that my kind were not welcome, and a great begrudging fuss was made over even the smallest of accommodations to remind me of how inconvenient my very existence was.

    That’s one of the reasons I’m not in academia any more. And I wonder how many people with disabilities are in the same position I am.

  2. Wow, that comment is outrageous.

    As a current doctoral student who has taught at a couple different universities and had fairly extensive pedagogical training, I still have not once received any training on working with students with disabilities. Sure, there have been short presentations from staff from the disability offices on how to know whether paperwork has been properly filled out so a student can get accommodations — which is important! — but no actual teaching advice, ever.
    .-= Sweet Machine´s last blog ..Fluffcation: Holiday =-.

  3. I wish I were surprised by comments like that. It happens everywhere, from elementary schools to Ivy League universities.

    I think the high school where I work does a great job with all kinds of accommodations, and we have a variety of programs and supports in place for students–but that doesn’t prevent other students from being jerks from time to time.

    I proctored one of the extended time rooms for a recent PSAT administration, and a number of kids in the room were angry about having to stay longer than their friends in other rooms. Their peers who were clearly taking advantage of the extended time seemed to handle it really well (and I did my best to diffuse the hostility in the room), but it made me wonder if attitudes like that make kids less likely to seek out (or take advantage of) the supports they need.
    .-= mk´s last blog ..Best Spam Ever =-.

  4. I regularly remind my husband (who is a great professor, but has a few blind spots which I’m successfully working on) that when he is teaching on-line classes, a certain number of his students are very likely to be non-English speakers, people who cannot go to a classroom for various reasons, or people with a certain level of learning disability. He is really good about looking for people who need help, and working with people who understand the concepts of the class, but cannot write in a perfect academic manner. But he needs reminding every now and then.

    It’s too easy to want every student to progress at roughly the same rate. It’s also really ableist. Fortunately, he’s willing to listen and learn. Too many professors are uninterested, and hide behind “speshul snowflake” sneers, when the “snowflake” moniker was originally intended to mean people who were overly convinced of their own brilliance and worthiness, not people genuinely in need of accommodation.
    .-= attack_laurel´s last blog ..An overwhelming overdose of cute… =-.

  5. I was shocked to read this on RYS, too. I’m a graduate student, I’ve taught for several years, and never seen anything like that kind of resentment of accommodations. My feeling has always been to give students what they need, and to give them the benefit of whatever doubt there might be. A lot of the RYS comments seem based on a notion that accommodations are an “unfair advantage” – it’s an ableist perspective, of course, and it’s pedagogically appalling. College isn’t a competition.

    I agree with Sweet Machine, though – I’ve never had teaching advice about how to help students with disabilities (though I’ve never gone to the office to ask, either).

  6. One of my friends brought up recently the complete lack of discussion about depression in academia, and I think that’s related. There IS a belief that you don’t belong in academia unless you are perfectly able-bodied, perfectly able-minded (whatever that means!), happy, and willing to completely sacrifice everything else for your career. Some of that trickles down to the undergrad level in attitudes.

    I’ve pretty much decided that I can’t deal with those expectations, with constantly hiding any problems or challenges I run into so the mean people won’t descend on me and shred my career (in my case, depression–I’m on top of it right now and hoping to stay that way, but there are no guarantees–and the only reason I got away with being semi-open about it is because my dad happened to get terminally ill about the same time I sought treatment and people assumed the former caused the latter).

    I never figured out how to complain about the Worst Psychiatrist Ever–who happened to be head of mental health services. The Academy is not a welcoming, supportive, accessible place.

  7. THANK YOU! Thank you for commenting on RYS and the language therein. I have been reading FWD and am surprised that this was the post that prompted me to comment – but oh! RYS is encouraging blatant stereotypes and perpetuating fears. I am a current grad student WD, and found RYS through a blogroll. While the snarky language seemed fresh at first, browsing for more than one post showed multiple issues and biases, and intolerance toward students, colleagues and staff. Both previous comments are correct, RYS shows the uncensored troll side of academia. While I would like to believe these stories on RYS are exaggerated for style and story, true life is too similar (or worse), and I would like to hold my professors and mentors to a higher standard. The Chronicle of Higher Education forum and articles have shared RYS issues at times.

    For other grad students, it seems disability offices help if you know what you are asking for. But if you don’t know what to ask for, or what accomodations are available, how can you ask for it? What if departments or offices do not communicate or share information relevant to accomodations? As a grad student and TA, I have lots of anecdotes, but PWD need data and attitudinal change with institutional and infrastructural support. I am learning more about disability studies, and am interested in pedagogy relevant for PWD at the college level, both to inform my teaching and research. Sorry, that was a bit of a tangent.

    And by the way, thanks to everyone for FWD.

  8. I read RYS, despite only having a BA and hopefully one day going in grad school. I also have ADHD. The reactions from many of the academics on this site only reinforced why I never went through Disability Services in college, and rather dealt with professors as needed for minor help (such as timing of the break in a 3 hour night class).

    This broke my heart to see what I go through on a daily basis be dismissed as a sad joke.The original question is a good one, because that is a difficult situation.

    But to dismiss people like myself as not truely disabled means you’ve never even listened to us. Who is the special snowflake there?

  9. I’ve been kicking a fuss up every time I take any professional development to talk about student accessibility issues.

    We did talk about it in the smaller group session I attended, because we had the opportunity to tell the person leading it what we wanted to do (and I put on my activism hat and told people to remember that the student is not the problem, but it can be difficult to find the best accomodation for them).

    What I found the most “fun” (if you define fun as “irritating”) was the professor who talked about how you’ll have these difficult students and then started talking about how hard it was for her when she had a deaf student because this student lip-read so she had to remind herself to actually look at the class the whole time she was talking. She then told us how releived she was when that semester was over – she wouldn’t have to work so hard to talk facing a student who lip-read – and then *oh noes!* the student had failed and she had him the class the next year too.

    She talked entirely about how the student had made things difficult for her, without talking about how accomodations could have been made that would be much more effective than the one she tried.

    .-= Anna´s last blog .. =-.

  10. @nuri – I have ADD and LDs too. I was registered with the Office of Disability Accommodation at my school but hardly used them because of these attitudes.

  11. Thank you for this post. It’s really depressing to see how many professors and future professors have disgustingly ableist views. I’ve never had any problems personally, but I generally don’t need academic accommodations as much as other types of accommodations. But fear of running into this kind of ableism is one reason why I’m not out to anyone in my department yet. (I’m in my first year of a PhD program.)

    I also HATE the argument that, “well, in the real world, they wouldn’t be able to get time and a half.” Actually, disability accommodations are supposed to be part of the workplace, according to the ADA. (Now oftentimes this doesn’t happen, but the law does mandate it.) Really this “argument” is just a way of people justifying their own behavior propping up institutional ableism.

    The comments here have brought up a lot of the issues with regards to ableism in academia. One other problem which I haven’t seen mentioned: Academics outside of disability studies write articles and monographs which are oftentimes dripping with ableism. I’ve seen the words “cripple,” “defective” and others with a disturbing frequency. That’s yet another institutional factor which may be driving PWD away from academia.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..On Passing and Not Existing =-.

  12. @Kat: I remember at one point thinking about registering, but then realized that since I never had an IEP, and that I was diagnosed when I was 6 and getting registered was just too much hassle for little payoff. The two instances I needed help worked out alright. One for a the timing of a break during a 3 hour night class, and a slightly demeaning meeting where I was cooed over while asking for “I won’t be able to memorize this, what’s the most important” during in another.
    Both worked out well, even being cooed over by my National Parks/ Tourism professor.

  13. As someone who tries very, very hard to not judge her students and accept all accommodations without fuss (or commentary), I can understand WHY some professors and TAs get frustrated. Clearly, the commentary about the professor with the deaf student or the one about students with ADD and extra accommodations during testing were out of line and assuming, but I think it does help to highlight another problem we have. Things like ADD and ADHD are over-diagnosed. Many think they have it, but just work in a different way than they were taught was the “right way” to work and learn, and many know they don’t have it but find an advantage in using medications such as Ritalin during exam time. Situations like that not only hurt those people, but also those who truly have learning disabilities, and sometimes its hard to put up with students who you KNOW do not have these conditions (due to overheard conversations, for example). It’s not the right attitude to have, but its important to know where it comes from.

    That being said, I’m a bit tired of the “well, you wouldn’t get those accommodations in the real world” arguments because a)they’re not true, and b)sometimes they do not apply. Many students read slowly and cannot finish a timed test at the same rate as others, but would have no trouble meeting a deadline where they could work at their own pace, take work home, etc. Many students who do poorly on tests for this reason do very well if given an oral test, or if asked to write a paper. A friend of mine had alot of trouble writing and made poor grades because of it until he dictated his papers to me and I typed them. I never changed the content or wording (I did edit for some grammar) and his grades instantly improved. I would consider this a reasonable accommodation, especially considering he did all the work up until it was time to type. You are correct when you (and by “you” I mean anyone) say that this is clearly and “ableist” point of view.

  14. Oh poor professors, having to live with the fact that students are individuals!

    Seriousely though, the argument that accomodations are unfair advantages is so old. It’s been part of every anti-descrimination debate, every discussion about affirmative action. And it is always based in ignorance of privilege.

    I am writing this as someone who once had an embarrassingly ableist reaction to accomodation at my university. I overheard a student telling the professor that he would need additionaly time for the final exam because of his severely impaired sight. And without thinking, blurted out that I wished I got that time as well. Fortunately, the professor was really great. He just asked if I wanted the impaired siht as well. I left feeling very emberrassed of myself, but it was an important learning experience. Noone likes being caught at being ignorant, but in the end, I am glad that this happened, because it opened my eyes to my own privilege as a TAB person.

    My other experience with accomodation-issues has been the rather discouraging experience of what it is like to suffer from severe depression as a student at my uni. I am not sure if this is ableism or just a consequence of the anonymity on campus, but my entire experience has been dominated by a feeling of not mattering. No one realized that I was struggeling. Nobody asked why I wasn’t taking as many exams as I should. And while my university does offer counseling, this is something that the student has to ask for- not easy when you are not sure what is wrong, or are in denial about how bad things are getting. The feeling of not mattering to anyone actually contributed to my health issues. It is frightening to think of all the students who will not be getting the help they need because they are unable to ask for it.

    On the other hand, the university does have programms to help students with mental health issues who ask for that help, including appointing someone to accompany students who are comming back after hospitalisation for a year, as well as groups and special offers to help with organizing their schedule. I am not sure how good they are about access and accomodations for disabled students, apart from the obvious like ramps etc.

  15. Now I’m terrified! I’m a current PhD student planning to try and stay in academia who’s hopefully – fingers crossed! – very close to getting a diagnosis for AS and who is planning to then talk to the Disability Centre. So far I’ve been positively surprised by my experiences in academia re: disability. For example, the Disability Centre at my old uni was *really* helpful – they helped me while I wasn’t diagnosed, told me what I needed to do and where I had to go to get a diagnosis and even phoned up various people for me when the referral got caught somewhere along the way and I went to them and went “help, I haven’t heard from anyone and I know I’m not capable of sorting this out myself.” People were also very understanding when I failed some of my courses first year because of depression (was actually other issues, but at the time I thought it was depression), and I never ran into any trouble because of the speech disorder. I was even positively surprised by the various teaching and demonstrating classes I went to, where I’d braced myself for “yeah some of your students are lazy good-for-nothings who don’t do the work” (this is a really sensitive topic for me because in my undergrad, I was the one who never went to tutorials, missed a third of the lectures and came late to another third, didn’t do any work and somehow wound up acing the exam anyway. This wasn’t because I was lazy or didn’t care, but because of AS and I really couldn’t help it.) However, people went the route “don’t judge them because you don’t know what’s going on in their life or what problems they might have; there might not be anything you can do to help in your role as tutor but you should at least try.”

    OTOH, I’ve never tried to get actual accommodations before. I’m very worried that if I go from “sorry for existing, really!!!” to “er, could you do X and Y and Z to make things easier for me?” the dark side of things will show. Also, I’ve noticed that there is often lots of talk about how to accommodate undergrads – postgrads and staff, not so much.
    .-= Kaz´s last blog ..fuck you ubuntu so very much =-.

  16. Oh, and I am totally baffled that accommodation is seen as “unfair” because for a DIFFERENT PERSON it would be an advantage. I wouldn’t want to exchange extra time on a test for having to try to understand statistics aurally, and I doubt anyone in my stats class would have traded a couple extensions for having their parent die.

    I’ve had professors who were very accommodating of students with disabilities and personal crises and mental health issues, but you never know for sure until you ask, and the risks of asking are huge: see RYS. The RYS folks on the whole really worry me.

  17. Lee–Sorry, but it isn’t a professor or TA job to speculate about students “really” having disabilities or not. At all. There is no justification for it. If a student is getting formal accommodations, they have the requisite paperwork, and it isn’t really anyone else’s business. Whatever problems exist in the medical establishment aren’t really the issue here. The issue is ableist people making all sorts of assumptions about who is or isn’t “deserving” of accommodations. (The issue of students using prescription drugs without a prescription isn’t really relevant to this discussion, either. Even so, I don’t think of this as “cheating” as much as illegal and potentially dangerous drug use.)

    I find it so frustrating that discussions about accommodations so often veer towards complaining about people who fake disability, or are misdiagnosed or whatever. This is a serious derailment, and a convenient way to avoid dealing with ableism.

    AD/HD may or may not be “overdiagnosed.” (Though, since these definitions are subject, it’s a bit fallacious to speak of having or not having AD/HD in strictly binary terms.) But that really is not the problem. The problem is people who use this alleged “overdiagnosis” to justify denying accommodations. To couch accommodation-denying rhetoric and behavior in the language of “we’re just trying to help the *real* disabled people” is seriously damaging to all disabled people, many of whom do not appear “obviously” disabled to a professor who sees them all of three hours a week.

    People who experience AD/HD as a serious ability generally do not share these “concerns,” BTW, or at least not the ones I know. I think this discussion, and many other related discussions, demonstrates that the “real” problem for PWD is a lack of willingness to understand and to accommodate. Not fears that some people may be gaming the system or are overdiagnosed, or whatever. Urgh.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Missing in Causation Talk: Actual Autistics =-.

  18. at my old school, which was smaller (but still 13,000 students), the disability services office was wonderful. all students with them were able to register before other students, and they really listened and wanted to help you think of accommodations. at my current school, the environment is completely different; for each accommodation, no matter how small, someone with a phd or md (so many, many therapists “don’t count” – i’m just incredibly lucky that my therapist is a psychologist (well, i could also rant about how medicare won’t pay for many licensed therapists that almost all other insurance that covers mental health pays for, so it’s not total coincidence)) has to write about it specifically and justify it. you are only allowed to register early if you need an accessible classroom, even though you might have a disability that narrows your choices of classes in another way. you have to know what you might need, and if your doctor forgot to write anything down (mine didn’t write social anxiety the first time), then the office will delay giving you your accommodations until they can reach that person, which involves coordinating two very busy schedules and can take weeks.

    i’ve had good experiences with every teacher i’ve approached, and i do have to do it every quarter. however, because of stories like this, and the pervasive cultural messages about my “unfair advantage”, i go to talk to instructors terrified every time (but i have to be the one to do it, because the disability office places great emphasis about how it’s the responsibility of the student to communicate their needs – never mind if that might be *part of their disability*). and if i can possibly manage, i don’t ask for them. now i’m starting to wonder if i’ve been treated well partly because i don’t have extra time for exams, just a private room (i’m not thinking of the people who were very nice to me about it, but the people who just provided the accommodations without comment, that might have been worse if i’d needed extra time). i *could* get extra time with my type of disability, and i probably need it, because there is always difficulty with concentrating – but the thing is, i have more stamina issues that time ones. there’s nothing they do for you if you can’t sit through an entire exam concentrating steadily the whole time. i just get lower scores, generally, because i don’t have the energy or time to check my work.

    @anon #7: yes about the no support for people not knowing what they need! the onus is completely on the disabled person to be endlessly creative with solutions, and many people get so uncomfortable and annoyed if you present a problem without a solution. including the people at the support office.
    .-= myriad´s last blog will never be enough =-.

  19. Clearly, the commentary about the professor with the deaf student or the one about students with ADD and extra accommodations during testing were out of line and assuming, but I think it does help to highlight another problem we have. Things like ADD and ADHD are over-diagnosed.

    Lee, I don’t think this is pertinent to the discussion, nor is it your job here to police those who may or may not have ADD or ADHD. Please try to stay on-topic.

  20. Thanks for the great comments so far, everyone!

  21. I was linked to this blog a while ago, and spent some time reading the archives. This post on academia reinforces WHY I need to read this.

    I am TAB, and in a teacher education program at a top-five according to the U.S. News for the School of Education. For our teacher education program we are required to take exactly one course on disabilities… and the course is a joke. The book isn’t bad, but the tests are useless. And, it’s mostly online, but it has 4 in class meetings, which are also jokes. I want to have small group discussions, or maybe a speaker who IS disabled in some way. So far our speakers have been professors.

    My University is fairly accessable, as far as I can tell, but it isn’t teaching us to be sensitive to certain kinds of issues. We have two classes on culture and language, as well as an English as a Second Language course… but, no courses on sexism, religiousism (the culture courses are focused on color/nationality almost exclusively, it seems… I have one more to go), or ableism, because the special education course focuses solely on the laws and how to teach. There is very little about the cultural issues of ableism.

    Thank you for giving me a perspective I have long been lacking.

  22. Even if some gets support to receive a degree, there’s no guarantee they will be supported in actually *using* that degree.

    A couple of years ago, my university hired a part-time professor who is deaf. He taught my Abnormal Psychology class and I thought he was excellent and I’m fairly certain he received good evaluations from the students, but he wasn’t hired back this year. My university has a lot of part-timers and there is always some turnover, but I’m convinced that at least part of the reason his contract wasn’t renewed was because of the cost of his two interpreters (a three hour lecture every week is too much for just one interpreter), which the university itself had been paying for after some wrangling by the department. The government (I’m in Ontario, Canada) provides some support to students with disabilities, but only as long as they’re students. Once they’ve graduated, it’s up to the employers alone.

    The department did also hire a new full-time faculty member, a clinician. (It’s actually kind of a big deal for a clinican to be hired as a full-time professor, because of the risk of having them change their minds and go back to the more lucrative client-based practice.) She’s also the only deaf clinician in Canada (and not a bad lecturer–she came in as a guest lecturer for my AbPsych class), but she doesn’t need interpreters, which again makes me feel like there’s a price tag issue here as well as some tokenism.

  23. Wow, I didn’t even see the “ADHD is so overdiagnosed” comment. I wish I hadn’t, because here I was planning to not explode in rage tonight! I’m in a weird position, because I seem to have almost all the symptoms of ADD/ADHD primarily inattentive, but they can also all be symptoms of Asperger’s and I have all the remaining symptoms of that (this confusion is why I usually just refer to my ADHD-like issues as executive function issues, which is definitely accurate). At the very least, I have many of the same problems as a person with ADHD and therefore am rather sensitive to these types of comments grrrrr.

    Can I just ask – on a more general note so this stays on-topic – that you really consider which you think is worse: someone who doesn’t have a disability faking it and being given accommodations they don’t really need, or someone who does have a disability being denied accommodations they need and therefore dropping out of uni/being unable to keep their job/etc. etc. etc. Can I also ask that anyone who answered “the faker!” reassess their priorities stat.
    .-= Kaz´s last blog ..fuck you ubuntu so very much =-.

  24. @ Kaz, I’d consider the latter the bigger problem, but the first can be discouraging when there is a limited amount of support/accomodations/etc available.

  25. That’s a fair point, but in that case it’s one leading to two again, you know? The person who doesn’t need them getting the accommodations leads to someone who *does* need them not getting them leads to bad things. But in a lot of cases, people act as if #1 is this big huge horrible thing that must be prevented at all costs!!! and don’t care if #2 happens along the way as long as #1 doesn’t, which just seems… backwards. (Also, in some of the cases I’m thinking of “accommodations” can be replaced with “treatment with respect and consideration for their differences” which should *not* be a limited commodity.)
    .-= Kaz´s last blog ..fuck you ubuntu so very much =-.

  26. Grrr, this makes me mad, I’m treated well by my tutors and fellow students despite my visible disability but I know that’s because I play it down and try to prove how ‘capable’ I am ‘despite’ my disability, which works from a social perspective but makes me feel a bit ofa fraud, especially when I need support as I’m always worried that I often don’t get the help I need because there’s the idea that I’m coping fine as I am. It’s hard to know what to do for the best, ask for help from the beginning and you’re accused of not trying hard enough or asking for special dispensation or being useless or if you start off trying to prove what a ‘super crip’ you are it’s really difficult to ask for help when you need it, how can any of us win? I’m fed up of people’s idea of provisions for disabled students being unfair to TAB students too, the old zero sum game again.

    Just one last point, I noticed someone further up the thread used the expression ‘blind spots’. I know it’s a commonly used expression but I do find it a bit ableist as it equates visual impairment with ignorance. Perhaps use of blind in this and other contexts could be a future FWD 101 ableist word profile? Though I’m sure you’ve got enough in the pile!

  27. @Kaz my only problems do come in when one is leading to two. It’s one reason I didn’t take accommodations; since I didn’t need them, I didn’t use them so that those who did would have them (there’s only so many empty rooms and note-takers). I know I’d rather have ADHD over diagnosed than under, even when it leads to uncomfortable situations.

  28. Holy crap. It makes me sad to think that some of my professors may think this sort of thing about me.

    I thought people in academia were supposed to be enlightened.
    .-= thetroubleis´s last blog ..What It Is To Be A Monster =-.

  29. All those comments at RYS, with a few exceptions make me feel horrible.

    I am having a terrible week. I have left a class early and skipped another one, so I could go to another one.

    Now I have a presentation to work on.

    Except I put it off because it is quite easy, and last night, I thought I could push through whatever piddly problems I would have tonight and get it done.

    I can’t.

    I have every right to e-mail my professor, to ask for help, to miss more classes than “allowed” but I hate doing it almost as much as I hate the pain. These attitudes don’t help, though my professors have been quite nice so far.
    .-= Kaitlyn´s last blog ..Spoon Theory and Me (It’s all about me) =-.

  30. Can someone with more experience in college than being a student explain this comment:

    “When we make special accommodations for individuals by changing our teaching style in a fashion which is to the detriment of the group as a whole, we are displaying favouritism. How is this anything but unethical? Similarly, when we extend accommodations to individuals which may not be to the detriment of the group, but *would* be to their benefit if made available, the playing field is no longer level, and yet transcripts will show no evidence of this fact. Again, surely this is unethical?”

    It’s unethical to make sure that I don’t fail for reasons beyond my control? What?
    .-= Kaitlyn´s last blog ..Spoon Theory and Me (It’s all about me) =-.

  31. Kaitlyn, as I understand the argument, it’s basically “If I treat them ‘special’, they’re going to do better than they would if I treated them ‘the same’, so it’s unethical.”

    I think it’s because people confuse “equally” with “the same”. Treating students with disabilities equally to other students would allow things like extra time on exams, and acknowledge different ways of learning without placing value judgments on them.

    And, of course, this gets into the heirarchy of disability. I suspect none of these people who are quite up in arms about it would be complaining about giving my husband accommodations, since he’s a wheelchair user and thus “really” disabled. So, things like having a note-taker, a scribe for exams, and making sure that everything was wheelchair accessible wasn’t “unethical”.

    Blind people, Deaf people, People with wheelchairs or arm-crutches and the like? They’re the “good” cripples. But obviously people with mental health conditions or who are non-neurotypical are faking. And if it’s over-diagnosed (and it must be, right? Right?) the best way to deal with that is by punishing the student in front of you, who had to jump through countless hoops to get the paperwork for disability-related accommodations.

  32. Possibly one of the things when it comes to non-neurotypicality is that in that case, the accommodations (e.g. more time) are often things that would be useful for the currently-abled student even though they’re not necessary the same way they are for the neuroatypical student. As a result, they go “hey, how come X gets these really cool extra points but I don’t?” OTOH, ramp for wheelchairs, Braille or sign language interpreter is something that CA students couldn’t do anything with.

    Then again, I don’t think the accommodations being useless for CA students would stop it. Case in point: all the whinging about Ritalin and “drugging children into compliance when it’s the parents’ fault for not raising them properly” and all that stuff – when, you know, Ritalin only works the way it’s meant to if you have AD(H)D. But we couldn’t have facts getting into the way here, oh no.

    Also, I want to say – I understand what you mean by “good cripples vs. bad cripples” and I’ve had my fair share of brushes with the “but disabled people look like X, and you don’t!”/”but Y isn’t a *real* disability!”, but I am a bit worried by putting it into those terms because it seems as if it could easily dismiss the ableism people with more “classical” disabilities get subjected to. In particular, the way it’s phrased makes it seem as if blind people, d/Deaf people, people in wheelchairs, etc. would never have a professor deny them accommodations they needed, which I find a somewhat problematic assumption.
    .-= Kaz´s last blog ..You are now looking at an Officially Official Aspie (TM) =-.

  33. I know this is way too long. Sorry. But it hits a lot of my hot-buttons.

    Favouritism is unethical. Professors are supposed to teach fairly and grade objectively. The problem with this teacher’s “logic” (and I use that word advisedly) is that accommodations are not favoritism. What privileged folk don’t get is that all accommodations do is level the playing field. An interpreter, for example, does nothing to help a student get by who can’t master the material: It only gives that student the same exposure to the material that every other student in the classroom already had.

    And it is unethical to teach in a way that is a detriment to the class as a whole. For example, it is not ok to show up drunk or unprepared. But, again, this person is using a logical cheat: Changing your teaching style to be more inclusive is hardly detrimental. You’re still giving them the material and you are still expecting them to master it, so where’s the detriment?

    I have little patience for whining like that of the lip-reader’s professor. She thinks facing the room is an inconvenience? She should try losing her hearing. And anyway, does she really think anybody can hear her when she’s got her face buried in the blackboard, or in her notes?

    As an undergrad myself, accommodations didn’t exist. Which is probably why it took me six years to complete a four-year degree. And another seven to get my doctorate. In grad school, I often ran into problems related to my disability: The Dean who told me other students envied my “special” parking privileges, the professor who was offended when I could not sit through a three-hour class and took stand-up mini-breaks at the back of the room at the 90-minute mark, etc. And when I hurt, I frowned, which got me written up once for having anger” issues.

    Now, to the ADHD debate. Which I do think is relevant. My experience, as a professor and as a private-practice psychologist, is that disabilities of all sorts are under-diagnosed, under-treated, and under-accommodated. Don’t know what the hard data is on that, but if I had a nickel for every client I’ve seen over the past 35 years who wasn’t diagnosed ADHD until adulthood, every bipolar kid I had in a class who was thrashing around trying to manage it all by himself, and every high-school student whose teachers refused to follow the IEP, well–I could retire tomorrow. As several people here have already said, many of us tend to try to fly under the radar to avoid discrimination, and those of us who do ask for help frequently don’t get taken seriously (and therefore don’t get diagnosed, etc.).

    Lastly, the only kid who ever scared the sauce out of me was neither disabled nor getting accommodations. I expect this is true for many professors, and that the posts on Rate Your Students reflect a cognitive error to do with what sticks out: We are all more afraid of tornadoes, for example, although asthma actually kills more people. Disabled people scare TABs, although TABs statistically do more damage, because we stick out to them.

    That said, people who write posts like the ones we read in RYS depress me: Why teach if you don’t love students and the teaching of them?? Do us all, and yourselves as well, a giant favor and go find another line of work.

    Beth from Boise, btw, rocks.
    .-= Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.´s last blog ..Disturbed patient, disturbing therapy by St. Cloud psychologist | =-.

  34. There was a hard of hearing student in a class I was teaching a few years ago. It was a little frustrating, but it was frustrating because of me, not because of him. (I kept forgetting that I needed to face him, and the seat that he chose that put him in the best position for hearing, with the ear with better hearing toward the front of the room, happened to be the most difficult place for me to turn toward with my physical issues. Writing something on the board, and then finding somewhere to stand to talk about it where I wasn’t blocking anyone’s view of what I had written, but was still standing close that I could point at things I’d written with the one arm that has decent shoulder mobility, and where I could angle myself so that I was facing him, was tricky. But it was my job as the instructor to figure out how to make it work as well as I could.)

  35. Hope to be ADHD PhD

    I missed reading this blog page before because of work but wow! It makes me really happy to hear about other people with learning disabilities and their experiences in academia, because I just started a doctoral program and I feel really overwhelmed by it all sometimes. Even though I have a lot of awesome friends and family supporting me, it really makes a difference to hear stories from other people who really know what it’s like. Today one of the 2nd year PhDs told me he also has a learning disability and I really wanted to cry and give him a hug because one of the hardest things about the last two months has been the feeling that I’m totally weird and the “only one”.

    PS: I hate the excuse that “you won’t get extra time in the real world” because I usually come in the lab for 12-14 hours a day or more to keep up with everyone else, so my extra time is when they’re at the movies or eating dinner or doing laundry or sleeping!

  36. @Hope to be an ADHD PhD – don’t worry. Humans have a tendency to remember bad events more easily than good events. I have had my fair share of discrimination, but I also have lovely teachers who really do their best for me.

    Case in point: Last Saturday, I sent an email to my teacher, telling him that his class was really difficult for me, because it went really fast, and I couldn’t keep up or ask questions. The next time we had the class he had changed it to allow more time, and he didn’t wait for me to ask questions! He really went out of his way, in my mind, to help me.

    So bear up! There are a lot of not-nice people in academia, but there are absolute gems as well.

  37. Indeed! I’m in the same boat, especially when dealing with disability services (all run by non-disabled folk)–to the point that I don’t really use it because of how it taxes me physically, mentally, and emotionally. One of my ethics professors lectured me about how I was supposedly using my disability to get unfair advantage. This has always happened to me, but this was especially difficult because I respected his academic endeavors and was going to work with him on my honors thesis. I credit him, though, for starting me on my journey of disability justice.

    I have so many more thoughts, so little energy to type them.