Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Mon., 15 Dec. 1997
Read This And Cry

You wouldn't believe--well, some of you would--how warm it's on my computer. I am getting flamed off-list in napalm proportions from denying faculty for being tiresome, hysterical, exaggerating, simplistic, melodramatic, insulting, naive, arrogant, uninformed, self-righteous, etc

Then, I got a message from a graduate student that showed just how shriveled some of these people with bloated egos regretably are, how the joints in their spirit have calloused. I think you should read it. I warn you, however, your heart will ache; it will be hard to breathe, your legs with numb, your nails with dig into your palms, and your eyes will fill with water. It is a message of suffering, endurance, persecution, courage, torture, hope, descreation, and promise. The student gave me permission to share the message if I thought I should. I do. To honor the student's request for anonymity, I have expunged any reference which might in the slightest way indicate the student's school and discipline.

This student reminds me why I want to be a visionary with a vision I can shake hands with. I do so wish I could humbly stand in the light of this student's nobility, shake this student's hand, and send him/her a bag of Tootsie Pops:

As a PhD student who is dyslexic I appreciated your post. I have experienced mostly hate and abuse from my ........ faculty

I am not longer at the first institution that admitted me (one of the top programs in the country). I spent 4 years there living through hell, was emotionally and intellectually battered and abused by faculty .....I was told "if you can't spell it you don't know it" (I am dyslexic - there are four kinds of dyslexia). I have been asked how I did so well on the entrance exam if I was "retarded" (93 percentile unaccommodated) . My response was "people with learning disabilities have to be twice as smart as everyone else just to break even.". Had I chosen to have accommodations on the [test] I would probably have done even better. At the time I decided that the red flag of nonstandard test administration was more problematic than the lower [test] score.

My accommodations generally are more time and access to a computer and it's spell checker. When spell checking, approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of a page is flagged of which the spell checker has no suggestions for about 1/3 of those works. Spell checking my recent essay final took an hour (at the previous place the faculty in my dept. told that my exams should be better than the other students since I had more time!).....Perhaps if these faculty....treated students as human beings with feelings, hopes, fears instead of inconvenient, time consuming, defective nuisances they might begin to realize that those of us who have struggled, for example just to learn to read,and have made it to grad school against all odds, have more to contribute than they might expect. Would they like their loved ones treated as they appear to treat some of their students?

I used to speak to disabled high school students about going to college. I'd tell them that we have one advantage over people without disabilities. When we fail we are used to picking ourselves up and going on, trying again. We are used to having our integrity, intelligence, motivation, etc. questioned by rude, insensitive individuals; having comments made to us that would never be made to a student without disabilities. As result we have learned to cope, although we may be just as hurt or destroyed by this behavior as anyone else, we know that this juvenile behavior on the part of some faculty says more about them than it does about us. We cry in private. We are used to having to advocate for ourselves, having to prove ourselves. The hazing that some faculty give new PhD students is nothing new. We have had to live with that our whole lives. It doesn't make it any less painful, but we have an advantage in that we have learned how to go on in the face of people rooting for us to fail and gloating when we do. We have learned how to hang on to our self worth despite the batterings. We have learned not to give up easily. This is not making lemonade out of lemons, this is dealing with the hard facts of life. To get to where we are today (ie in college or grad school), we have already had to run a gantlet, without much support, and far fewer have survived than should. Treat every student like I have been treated and there would be a student shortage crisis in higher education. Treat every student how I have been treated and there will be far fewer inventions and advanced in knowledge in the future.

Higher education is not especially supportive of students with disabilities. The quotes you gave from faculty, were they directed at minority students, would result in university wide uproars and disciplinary action. I realize that some faculty are emotionally immature, other feel threated by smart students (disabled or not). I guess for these individuals, to realize that those of us who were born with wiring askew in our brains (what they would no doubt call defective) and yet be as smart as they are, if not smarter, is perceived as a threat.

This student made it a fine day.


Louis Schmier           
Department of History    
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA  31698                        /~\    /\ /\
912-333-5947                       /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
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                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

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