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Not So Great Encounter With Prof


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okay guys & gals...i'm posting this for two reasons:

1.) to vent (surprise, surprise :lol: )

2.) b/c i'd really appreciate feedback, particularly re: if you think i'm overreacting to the situation, suggestions, etc...


i have letters through the disability services office at school to give to my profs. generally they outline any needed accomodations, etc. in my case i'm not requesting anything in the classroom upfront but it indicates that i do have flare-ups & regular medical appts, etc & that while i'm obviously responsible for all the work i should be given some consideration for deadlines, class attendance, etc. as needed. obviously i'm hoping to not have to be creative but if i do end up really ill for a period it will be better to have dealt with it officially pre-emptively.

i've now met with my primary professors & while they had varied responses, the last one takes the cake. humor aside, it was pretty upsetting to me & while i thought i'd "cool off" about it after a day or so i'm finding myself even more ticked off about it now (it was tuesday afternoon). i'm not losing sleep over it or anything but i'm dreading the class & having to interact with her for the rest of the semester...

here's the scoop:

after giving her my letter & my personal 2-3min supplemental explanation (i.e. i don't always use the wheelchair so don't be surprised!), the prof asked me a few questions, which i'm totally fine with. in fact i probably prefer it as it felt a bit strange when my one prof said nothing & seemed to have no interest in any further conversation. i'm not shy & am not bothered by questions 99% of the time if someone genuinely seems to care, and like having a chance to explain a bit as it makes me feel a bit less awkward down the road when i odd things come up. but i digress....i had no worries that the meeting with this prof would be anything more than the 5-10 minutes i spent with my other profs & in fact had a friend waiting who i was going to drop off (my close parking is a friend maker, esp. with those who walk a few miles to avoid the parking fees!)

but then the prof proceeds to say "well, here's what i have for you..." and proceeds to recommend 2 books for me to read in order to improve my health condition! one was a diet book & the other another alternative health book. and she proceeds to talk about how i should email the one author, etc. i was fairly flabbergasted at her presumption but knew that, however ignorant, she somehow meant well. nevermind that of course she'd never heard of dysautonomia & doesn't know me or anything about my health short of a 5 min. summary, she felt "intuitively" that these books could be the answer to all that ails me. ggggrrrrrrr. i was pretty insulted by the presumption that i wouldn't be looking after my own best interests and wanted to say, do you have any idea how many avenues i've gone down & how much your silly books make absolutely no sense for me?! i can't tell you how many times i've read on lists of "what not to say to a chronically ill &/or disabled friend/person" how one shouldn't offer cures/fixes. i SO want to print one out and give it to her. but again....i know she meant well (somehow?!) and could have dealt with that part of the encounter. i mean i've been handed business cards by strangers at the store telling me they can cure me & as brash & insensitive as it is i know that in their own way they mean well & i totally laugh it off. this was a bit different as it was a prof who i have to deal with all semester & she's in a position of power. but there's more...

silly me decided that i was going to be miss advocate-minded-social-worker-in-training, not the least encouraged by the fact that we had just spent a good hour of class discussing how important it is to speak up when others say things that are offensive/insulting to minority groups, ourselves, etc. - regardless of the intent - as a means of educating others, not tolerating stereotypes & generalizations, etc. and about how our classroom was to be a safe environment to do so wherein we were to appreciate others' unique experiences, what they bring to the table, etc....quite the set-up. so...trying to put that talk into action i spoke up & told her that while i knew she meant well, as someone with a chronic illness who has spent oodles of time (didn't quite use that terminology) researching, reading, traveling to docs, etc. things having to do with my health condition, having someone who doesn't know me & has never ever heard of my health issues isn't exactly too well-regarded. i was polite & respectful & stressing that i knew she meant well, but...

i was blown away by her next response. she then kept asking me why the issue was such a trigger for me (once i'd already explained..obviously wasn't enough for her), told me i wasn't being open-minded and needed to be able to challenge myself to reach out of my "comfort zone", referencing an illustration we'd discussed in class re: why people don't deal with issues of discrimination, oppression, etc. according to her my "comfort zone" was not having strangers (aka her) give me random, unsolicited, irrelavant suggestions about how to "fix" myself. according to her this makes me closed-minded. i honestly was pretty upset by the whole ordeal. much more so by the second part than the first (b/c i realize that she could have just been clueless & not thinking initially...but then it went way beyond that as things progressed). oh yeah, as a bonus she's my prof for "Diversity, Discrimination, & Oppression". and we have 2 weeks on disability issues toward the end of the semester. seems she's really well-prepared & open to being educated, eh? and in class we had to "vote" on something by marking it off on papers tucked behind the podium & high - that i could have never gotten to in the wheelchair (& she didn't know at that point that i didn't always use it). i wasn't personally offended but i noticed as did most of the rest of the class, as others were all into asking me what i wanted them to do about it to help (i.e. vote for me, etc.)...she was clueless throughout & we all just found it a bit ironic seeing what class it was considering the vote could have been done many other ways. i guess that should have been my preview to her later reaction...

i could ramble on & on about the conversation & some other things she said, but those are the highlights.

i spent a good deal of time trying to decide what, if anything, else to do about the situation & as much as i wanted to just let it go, i don't have a good feeling about it & won't be surprised if she pitches a fit about my missing class for a doctor appt (already know i'll have to at least once), nevermind if i really get sick & have to turn something in late, etc. so i decided just to mention it to the disability liason person (who is great) in my program. i waited until thursday so i was a bit more removed & talked to her not b/c i want anything done but just as a heads up in case it becomes an issue later in any way. it was helpful in that she affirmed i wasn't nuts in my reaction, and that while yes the initial "suggestions" were way uncalled for, her follow-up response to my reply was even more over the top. unfortunately she explained that she's doesn't officially have any academic role per se so so that i really should let the assistant academic dean know, in writing, just as a heads up. it's obviously up to me but she thought it was a good idea, both as protection down the line in case anything really goofy occurs with the prof & also as an FYI in case things are happening with other students that aren't exactly ideal. when i shared with her my mixed feelings about doing so, not wanting to make a bigger issue of it that it was/is, she said another option would be to write it up in a sealed envelope so that it would be "on file" in case problems arose later but otherwise wouldn't be read. i trust that this would be the case & am leaning toward that option (but obviously will have ot write it up in a bit more prim & proper & less emotive fashion than this version!)

i really wish that the ordeal would have been in the class setting as i know others would have backed me up. i guess it's good that i feel that way about my classmates, but it's cruddy to be so undermined by a prof, particularly in a class where we're "required" to write, speak, etc. about some pretty sensitive & intense issues throughout the semester....again, it's the second part of the interaction that's really bugging me most. the fact that she pretty told me my reaction was close-minded, as if every situation as equal sides of the coin & the reasons for my not appreciating her suggestions were unwarranted. i may be many things, but i'm definitely not close-minded or in any kind of "comfort zone" when it comes to health-related issues. ggggggrrrrrrrrrr.

ok. vent over. off to sleep....

thanks for reading...


Edited by Sunfish
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:( Melissa how awful for you, I would be pretty upset, angry and aprehensive too! Don't you just love these people who think they know it all, but in essence should supposedly know better! :lol: Well I hope things improve with her and am glad to hear things are goin well otherwise with ur classmates and that e.t.c.

U take care. :)

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I tend to agree with you about the sealed letter - that seems to be the best option; and also look for a chance to discuss your issue in class because if she pulls the same stuff about wanting you to read the books that will "cure" you then the rest of the class can chime in and back you up.

During nursing school I missed more days than was allowed by the program and was threatened with expulsion; my classmates drew up a petition that was signed by ALL of them and I got to stay in school.

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Boy Melissa,

I've had my share of ignorant prof responses, but yours sort of takes the cake with the whole "social work, discrimination, sensitivity to disability" theme going on in the class. I mean, you can understand if some old engineer guy makes some insensitive remarks, but seriously. Social work. Disabilities. Is this woman in the right building? Did she make a wrong turn on her way to school?

Looking at it objectively, i can sort of see where she might think she was helping, but it makes me laugh to think about going to Susan and handing her books about how to cure blindness with home remedies. :lol:

This is really not a laughing matter for you though. I know the trepidation you must feel knowing you have to communicate and deal with this woman for the rest of the semester. I've had moments like that too where i was like, ohhhhh boy, there's going to be a clash of the titans here. When that happened to me, what i did was just behave as respectfully and normally as i would with any other professor (which i know, of course, you would anyway). Even though they made life difficult, i just called in the support of disabilities services. They never let me down in tough situations.

As for your situation, you might want to do the letter, writing up the incident and then mailing it to the disability liason with the understanding that she'll keep it sealed in case it's needed. That way someone you trust has the description (so there's no fear of it getting into the wrong hands), and also it's dated and sealed, so that there is record of the incident if things get worse.

I'm sorry you had to go through that, but i'm glad you stood up for yourself and that your classmates are a supportive group. Sounds like this lady's on some other planet. The voting thing tipped me off that you weren't dealing with the most sensitive of people.

Is this some sort of weird test to see how you'll react?

Well, keep us updated on what this lady does next.

Still cheering you on...


PS-- you might want to ask Susan if other students have had problems with this professor in the past.

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Hey Sunfish,

I can understand as to how you would get offended by her reaction of "here, read these two books and call me in the morning", but I think she was well intentioned, although completely ignorant of the situation. She obviously isn't very sensitive to the very issues that she teaches in class! :lol:

I was wondering if perhaps after she gave you the books, did you say anything like "there's a standard protocol for diet, exercise and various meds that is well known for this condition, but these things only help to manage my condition and there is no known cure. ..."I've been to various specialists and have access to the latest research on my condition; I do everything possible to keep things in check, but it is not an illness that can always be controlled." So there, lady!

I think I'd bring a large pile of printouts on dysatuonmia research and a book on dealing with disabled or chronically ill persons and hand them to your teacher at your next class and say "here, maybe this will cure you of your bold assumptions and insensitivity to my situation.! :(

As you can see, you've got me fired up too. :) Seriously, though I think she meant well but I would do the sealed envelope thing in case there are any problems down the line.

Hope it works out for you,


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No I DO NOT think that you are over-reacting.. I feel that "maybe" at first she "might" have been thinking that she could help you.. but even still she was out of line.. I dont think that it is right for somebody who has no knowledge of our POtsy world.. or any illness for that matter.. to say well I know what will cure you..

its just wrong.. and it is insulting...

and as for the rest of her BS.. my lord.. I would like for all those whose.. judge us and DISCRIMINATE against us.. to walk a week in our shoes..at some of the worst times with dysautonomia.. so that they would really know and understand how much this effects everything that we should not have to think about.. because well it automatic.. but we are very well aware of our autonomic systems.. how could we not bee..

Now I am not wishing this pots/dysautonomia on anybody.. and I hope that it didnt come across that way.. I wouldnt wish this on my worst enemy.. I just would like those Bullhead ignorant people to understand..

Anyways.. I apologize as I just went off on a tangent!! I just feel angry for you!

But yes I think that you should have something on record.. just incase.. you never know.. Ulitimately the choice is yours.. But you are an intelligent person.. and you seem to be very level headed.. I think that whatever you decide to do will be what is best for you.. and best for you to ge tthrough the remainder of the semester..with this professor..

You know your body and how it functions and doesnt function.. and if you need to ask for a little extra time or consideration.. you should get it no questions asked.. they are aware of your situation..

So anyways Melissa I just wanted to offer my support.. let us know what you decide.. good luck


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Sometimes college profs like to "push buttons" to get us to react in different ways and to see things in a different perspective. There was one particular philosophy prof who began each semester by blantantly telling his students that God does not exist. Only after getting into the course did the students realize he did that for shock value and to make us think "outside the box". He actually is Protestant and even lived in an Amish community for the "expereince. So my point is, yes, your prof was out of line but a college prof lives in a highly "intellectual" world (ESPECIALLY Graduate profs) and has the job of making students think and react in different ways they may not be comfortable with.


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she sounds a bit new age and dippy to me! The sealed envelope option might be wise- but how do you know it will STAY sealed? I'd get chatting to some class-mates, and make sure that if anything else happens in their presence, they'd be prepared to speak up as witnesses.

If anyone tried to offer my crappy advice, I just say "Thanks, it may be worth thnking about, but my condition is actually incurable. If you would like to find out more about it, perhaps you could readx,y,z and look up potsplace.com?"

Maybe you should print some stuff off of the site about symptoms etc and tell her the suggestions she made resulted in you leaving "your comfort zone!" because you know they wouldn't work, and because you know that your condition is more complex than most medics understand, let alone an academic.

Comfort zone- how unprofessional to speak to a student in this way! Maybe it's the American way, but in the UK this sort of behaviour wouldn't be acceptable in a university setting.

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Nothing annoys me more than when someone has the "miracle" cure and if you are not interested, you obviously don't want to get well. I'm sorry this happened.

When my Jacob was 10 he got juvenile arthritis. I took him to children's hospital in Seattle. We stayed with my hubs sister. She was selling "vitamins" and told me in front of Jake that I obviously wanted him ill for the attention it brought me and if I really wanted him to get better, I would give him her stuff. Later he was crying and asking me why I wanted him sick, when her pills would cure him. :angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry: I have never spoken to her again. And I have lost all patience for people who do this. You were much more tactful than I ever could have been. And as far as I'm concerned you certainly did not over react. None of us choose this, who on God's earth would want to feel this way? And people are so stupid to think we haven't researched everything to get better. I think if you still have time, you should elect another class. Tolerance is not her strong point to be sure.

Jake has never even had a prof talk to him, but he's had one really nice one talk to me when he was in hospital. There is no excuse for her behavior. morgan

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So sorry you had this experience!!

I know it's hard not to take this personally but it really isn't about you......she's the closed-minded one and it sounds like she may be intentionally trying to push your buttons. Some people can't handle the fact that there are those in the world who are sick and Dr's aren't able to "cure" so they blame the person with the illness/condition.

You are not overreacting. As someone once told me...there really is no such thing as over-reacting. Your feelings are yours and you may not know why situations produce such strong feelings and emotions but there IS a reason. You may not be aware of all the things that tug on your "issues" but your feelings don't come out of "nowhere". There important thing is how you respond and react to them.

I agree with Steph about mailing the letter to yourself. It seems your parents are also really supportive so can you send them a copy as well...someone else to also have a copy who could assist you later if you needed. If it were me in your shoes, I would not send a copy to the Dean because I don't trust it won't be opened. I would be more likely to send a copy to a therapist or Dr I work with.

If It were me, I would also just try to limit my interactions with this professor and focus on building relationships with classmates. If you say anything more at this time you may just add "fuel to the fire" and until you get a better sense of her and her class and how things are going to work I would lay low and focus on doing the things I needed to do to protect myself.

Of course, we are all different so what I choose to do may not be what's best for you. I support you no matter what you decide!!!!!!!!!!!!! :angry:

You are definately not over-reacting though!

Good luck & keep us posted on how things go and what you decide to do.

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Melissa, I think it would be a good idea also to type something up, date and mail it to your disability advocate. Just in case. Then you are covered if she really starts to come down on you. I also agree with Carmen about the button pushing. You don't know her teaching style or what she's like for now, maybe this is a test and she sees you as someone to make an example or point of. Maybe trying to let this go and leave her with her own opinions would be the best option for now. You need to be able to get through this class and unfortunately deal with this lady. Try not to let her words affect you, and she will have nothing further to work with. Take care of yourself and rest up! Laura

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I vote for the sealed envelope so that if the know-it-all prof gets out of line again, you then have something to show a history of this type of behavior.


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It seems that the professor is a narcissist. The fact that she would presume to tell you how to manage your medical condition even though she had never heard of it before is almost diagnostic.

Here are the official American Psychiatric Association's criteria for the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4. Requires excessive admiration

5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

It's not really suprising that the teacher is violating the very principles that she is supposed to be teaching. It is advance warning that she cannot be reasoned with, at all. Avoid this person, as you would earthquakes and the plague. Do not take her course unless you absolutely have to. If you absolutely have to take her course, you could, perhaps, survive by sucking up to her shamelessly. However, it's way too late for that option, if you have already defied her in some way.

If this were purely a one-on-one interpersonal relationship, you could simply walk away (or wheel away, I guess). This wouldn't pose any threat to your learning, because you already know more than the teacher about the subject. The problem is that it may affect your credentials. How badly do you need to take and pass this course?

The problem is that this interaction is taking place in an institutional context. Narcissists are drawn to professions and institutions that enable them to prey on a captive audience (remember, they tend to be "interpersonally exploitive"). Unfortunately, the people who run the institution generally side with the narcissist, because they view any criticism of the narcissist as a criticism of the institution or a threat to a dominance hierarchy of which they are a part. So, basically, I wouldn't count on anyone from within the institution to be of any real help.

As far as I can tell, you have three basic options: (1) drop the course, (2) swallow your pride and just put up with obnoxious behavior on the part of the teacher, or (3) seek help from an advocacy group outside of the university.

Best of luck.

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Guest Finrussak

After spending a LOT of time both behind and in front of the podium at a few Universities I have to agree with LThomas...you will come across a few profs who are there for the power trip and others who unfortunately are models of the " those that CAn, DO and those that CANT, teach" adage...making it harder for us "normal" educators!!She probably wouldnt survive in the real world of social work!!

May I add another option ( and this is only if you cant drop the course...this gal is bad news and will NOT be expected to cooperate...and here is a little info re: campus hierarchy: even tho the dean is SUPPOSED to be able to do things for the students...unless an actual LAW is broken ( and it has to be real bad) once a prof has tenure ( and even before) there is little anyone can or will do against them. It is amazing to realize the power they have ( and this therefore attracts these types of nuts)...so the suggestion I have if you need to or want to keep the class is to GO to the academic dean or assistant and TALK with him and ask to have it documented as a conversation. This is in addition to the sealed envelope thing. This way HE is the one putting stuff in writing so IF things go badly ( like you are ill and the nutty prof wants to penalize you) the dean has a vested interest in helping you...after all he wont want ot be a party to a discrimination lawsuit, right??? Then you MUST email him back thanking him for his time and at same time documenting your conversation. cc the email back home and to your advocate...all on the record..Sorry to say but often strong tactics are necesssaary.

Plus in this way all necessary parties are notified...what if she has pulled this before on others??? and they need a few more incidents to reprimand her???

Now, if you werent challenged with health issues Id give you advice I have recently given my 2 college kids (one at Miami Univ Ohio!; the other just grad from Northeastern Boston) you have to learn to deal with all kinds in the real world so may as well start at college...and never argue with the person holding the grade book...unless you are SURE the issue is important and you know exactly how and with whom to deal with it. You may be "right" but end up ruining your GPA;Do your homework first ( as in find out how the chair of the dept feels, how your deans react, etc) then make a plan and ACT on it.

But in your case, I fear the best option is to drop class OR lay low and do NOT challenge her openly especially during class...the last thing you want is for her to feel publicly challenged...you WILL regret it...I have had colleagues in academic world just like her and to "poke the bear" is NEVER a good option!!!

good luck!!

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I agree with Carmen. If you wish to send a copy of the letter to the disability advocate, that's ok. I would suggest sending the letter to yourself registered so that you retain the letter. I think when you send it registered the letter is stamped across the seal so that it can't be tampered with.

I also had strange experiences--at the workplace. A manager (a woman) who made snide comments about taking leave when child was baby. How about a panel on promoting women in the workplace and I was the only woman.

I think that we have to learn to live with people who say and do off the bat things. There are just people like that in the world. I prefer not to waste my energy store on dwelling over these people...Lois

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Well Melissa, that is quite something you ran into. I can imagine that you are very upset about this. I haven't read everything but I thought of thinking if it's possible to arrange a conversation with the prof and one or two others and ask your prof what was her intention. When she meant to help you (don't laugh, it IS possible), tell her that this isn't the way to help, because it upsets you. And tell her that you're NOT in a comfort zone, being like this.

If arranging a conversation isn't possible I wish you all the best having to deal with this prof!


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thanks for the outpouring of replies everyone. i'll respond more specifically later but just wanted to say a quick thanks before i delve into some reading for school that i have to tackle.

:angry: melissa

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It looks like you've gotten lots of good advice and support. Let me just add that I was all "fired-up" when I read your post...it is almost unbelievable that this happened to you in this context. Wow! Hang in their and keep us posted.

Cheering you on,


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