Apr 20, 2007

Trying to get rid of a student can be tough

Very tough.
I was the director of a new, highly specialized, disability-specific graduate program, requiring a synthesis of science, mathematics, and human service skills. My accuser was admitted to the program on academic probation, the terms of which were clearly specified.

The cracks in her academic preparation surfaced almost immediately. Her writing skills were abysmal and her mathematics background was severely deficient. When I met with her to critique her work, she accused me of forcing her to “talk white” and to use the “white man’s arithmetic.”

She demanded that I assign her a tutor. I replied that our department was very small and tutors in our specialty area were rare. I suggested that she ask a classmate for help or consider joining a study group. She replied that the other students shunned her because she frequently disagreed with them.

After several such meetings, I asked if she’d consider speaking with a counselor who could help her sort through these issues. She became visibly agitated and replied that the “white people” at our medical school didn’t understand the “emotional style” typically used by black people when communicating.

The next day, I spoke with the Dean of Students, informing him that I thought it best not to meet privately with this student any longer. A week later, I initiated dismissal proceedings in accordance with academic policy. When I informed the student of my actions, she was outraged.

Several days later, my Dean received notice from a law firm representing the student. She had filed a complaint with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and the severity of her accusations required a full on-campus investigation. The sole object of her complaint was me.
Read the whole thing.

And it's not just academia. Firing people can be fraught as well. A public librarian I know fired a page, a high school student who worked part time, only to have him turn up at a meeting of the library board and accuse her of racism--he was Asian. The thing dragged on for months while an investigation was being conducted. In the meantime, the kid kept showing up at meetings--the town council as well as the library board--and disrupting the proceedings. The librarian was eventually vindicated, but not before going through hell.

No comments: