PlayDoh, Part deux.

When I last left you, I was hovering on the brink of asking Miss PlayDohPants (hereinafter PDP) if she was mental, but restraining myself, on the grounds that “Are you brain damaged?” is not the kind of question that will have a happy answer. Of course, as you have all guessed, SHE WAS. Here’s how I found out.

It was the night before midterms, and I got a long email, full of fairly correctly put together sentences. At least from a grammatical point of view. From a containing information that had a grasp on university policy, the law, and reality, not so much. According to the email, Miss PDP normally (now here’s an interesting keyword, indicating, for those playing along at home, that this was not her first, nor even her second semester at university, and thus the “I don’t know the rules for accommodations” excuse could not be legitimately on the table) had accommodations for her unspecified mental disability. The email explained that she had not applied for accommodation because of “reasons”, said reasons being alleged in the email to be something to do with being on the wait list for the class before semester started. The email went on to suggest that since paperwork was tedious, and time had passed, and OH YES, the midterm was the next day, I could just go ahead and give the student double time for the assignment, on my own recognizance, as it were.

OH HELL NO. Readers, you know me. I don’t violate provincial law, as a general rule, for people I like, let alone students who disrupt my class with their PlayDohitry. I replied to the email pointing out that while the waitlist reasons might have prevented Miss PDP from completing her paperwork before semester started, she was now, evidently, in the class, and had been for 3 weeks, and whatever the holdup on filling in the goddamned web form was, it was in no way shape or form my problem. I also pointed out that university policy prohibited me from taking unilateral action, a position I still maintain, regardless of what idiotic actions may or may not have been taken subsequently by the fuckwad dean and his douchebag lackeys. But I get ahead of myself. To be clear, I declined the invitation to constitute myself as a mental health professional and/or disability advisor with godly powers to dispense accommodations absent any documentation. Professional conduct, dontcha know.

Miss PDP’s initial response was to email the Disability Office’s Admin person asking her to make me do it. The Disability Office Admin, a woman who, like me, makes her toast by breathing on it, promptly told Miss PDP to either fill in the requisite forms or go fuck herself. (I may have paraphrased the last part.)

Miss PDP turned up in the lab the next day to write her midterm. During this time, I invited all students to come get their MLA citation checked. Many did; Miss PDP declined. This fact will become relevant later.

At the end of the class, Miss PDP approached me with – mirabile dictu – her disability form. Do you see that? It had taken less than 12 hours to generate the required paperwork. Because I am a bitch who takes into account that the “P” in FOIP stands for “privacy”, I declined to discuss the paperwork in front of the class. I did have a burning need to discuss her disability, too, starting with the question – what the fuck is up with the motherfucking PlayDoh? “Bring it to me in my office hour,” I said, “because I won’t discuss this in public, for your privacy.” Miss PDP waited until the end of class, when she approached me in the hallway. “Nope,” I said again, “the hallway is not a place where I will discuss this. For privacy reasons.” She retreated.

When I got home, I had an email asking me what the three reasons were that I refused to sign her stupid form. This, gentle readers, is the level of comprehension we are talking about in every single one of my interactions with the student. “Not three reasons,” I replied, “privacy reasons. Come see me in my office hour tomorrow.”

I held out not a huge amount of hope that she would come and see me, and I don’t think she would have, except that the deadline for getting accommodations on the final exam was looming, and the Disability Office Admin person’s response to late requests for final exam accommodations was likely to be “go fuck yourself sideways”. I started the conversation by asking, perhaps foolishly, for a clarification about what the hell had taken so long with the paperwork. Miss PDP said it was “reasons”; reasons this time being defined as her grandmother, or possibly her mother being ill. Still not seeing the connection, I decided to move on, rather than dwell on the confusing.

It is my general practice, on these occasions, to go through the list of accommodations, and inquire, insofar as the law allows me, into what kind of help students require. This is why I also have a hard line on the “in private” part of the discussion. Experience has taught me that students with accommodations don’t really want to discuss them in front of people, and sometimes presenting the forms in public is a way not to have a conversation. They brush professors off with a “I just need extra time on exams,” and a lot of profs just sign the forms and shoo the students away. I get that. I know that’s common practice, but it doesn’t make it ethical. My response to that crap is “bullshit, you don’t just have ADD for 2 weeks of the year.”

So, rather than just signing the form, which made Miss PDP annoyed at me immediately, I took the time to read it. Which, possibly, in hindsight, was a mistake. Because there on the form it says that I am granting the student permission to record my classes. I have a problem with this, which has to do with running my classes as discussions, and usually I decline these requests after talking to students about whether they really need to record me. Mostly, they don’t. So I asked, just out of curiosity, if Miss PDP has BEEN RECORDING WITHOUT PERMISSION. “Oh yes,” she said blithely.

At this point, I did kind of lose my shit. I asked her about why she hadn’t told me, and first she said she did (astute readers will be starting to notice that this person is a liar liar pants on fire). Then we get into it a little more, and she revealed that she knew full well there are circumstances in which recording is not ethical, and that I am apparently supposed to trust her PlayDoh fiddling, word-find doing ass with making these determinations, and not even bother my pretty little head with knowing that she is doing it at all. I stopped the meeting at this point and refused to converse with her on this topic further unless her Disability Advisor was present. Also, possibly my lawyer, and some guy who might be inclined to rough her up.

After she left, I had an exchange with the university FOIP Dude, who, when asked about students recording in class said “they have to get the form signed, and then it’s okay.” I pointed out that the form had not been signed, and that it was well into week 4 of semester, and what was the sitch with regard to the unauthorized recording. “They can’t record unless they have the form,” he said. Because clearly, in the lawyerverse, there’s some kind of paper-related physics that disables the recording device. We went round and round on this for about 10 minutes, during which he asserted that no recording was possible absent the form signage. “What if she DID?” I asked. “There’s a FORM,” he replied. Okay. No help there.

Amazingly for someone who took 3 weeks to mention that she needed accommodations, Miss PlayDoh only took 30 minutes to let her Disability Advisor know that she needed a meeting with me and the advisor after class the following day. If you are suspecting the dread hand of some puppetmaster behind many of these actions, you are as astute as I expect my readers to be. There was indeed a puppetmaster, and he was to loom large in Part 3.

7 thoughts on “PlayDoh, Part deux.

  1. fillyjonk

    This is giving me flashbacks to the multiply-accommodated student I had one semester, who decided partway through the semester that handing in assignments late should be another accommodation s/he should get.

    It culminated in a phone call to me from this student’s favorite Dean, essentially telling me to accept the late assignments. At the time, it felt like I’d had my legs knocked out from under me, I went and ranted at my chair for about a half-hour, insinuating that if this was the future of how education would go I might consider finding other employment….

    Now, with a cooler head, I wonder if the Dean’s request was really a veiled, “Please, we want to get this student graduated and out of here, if s/he fails your class for not having work handed in we will ALL have to deal with him/her for another year.” The phrase “This is one of our most ‘special’ students” was used, and the student was in the room when the dean said that, so….

    Ultimately, I swallowed my pride and everything else, student squeaked by with a C, and I thought I was free forever.

    Until student couldn’t get a job and decided s/he wanted a Master’s degree. (Except s/he seems to have washed out of the program, saints be praised)

  2. Veronica

    I am on the edge of my seat! I cannot wait to know how this story ends!

    I also want to know what universe this lawyer lives in. “It can’t happen without a form, and if it did happen, well, there’s a form.” This is just mind-boggling.

  3. Allison

    While I am in no way, shape, or form qualified to comment on different accommodations the Disability office people grant, I must admit that some of them make me question whether or not we are doing the right thing for students. I remember one accommodation was “student must have tests and assignments read out loud to them”

    Now, seriously? How in the world is that accommodation going to play out in the workplace? Is it really appropriate for us to provide that accommodation when in reality a job is going to require that at some point, the student READ SOMETHING in order to do that job?

    1. whatladder Post author

      Oh, dude, you have no idea. This student’s accommodations included not only having the questions read to her, but having someone write down her answers.

      1. Allison

        Just…no. How in the world is it appropriate for the higher education system to give students like that any hope that they will be able to transition from college successfully? At what point do accommodations fundamentally change the nature of the material learned, or the learning process itself, to the point where the accommodated student is receiving credit for accomplishments that they haven’t actually made?

  4. titchandboofer

    I am gripped and horrified!
    Snowflake of the future: Student of my mum, when explaining why he was unable to practice his violin during the school holidays – ‘I was very busy with my new pet….goldfish’.
    Notoriously time consuming those goldfish.


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