Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why I was fated to meet Little Marty

Little Marty just called and helped talk me down off the ledge. He suggested that I create some supporting documents with which to arm myself when I walk into that meeting on Thursday: a petition for my classmates to sign, and a statement from the adjunct professors affirming that my classroom demeanor is appropriate and enriching, and I am fit to be a student in this program.

The petition states:

We the class of 2011 believe that Ayelet Survivor is an asset to the program. Her class participation enhances our educational experience, and our time at [this school] would be diminished by her absence.

I wonder how many of the other students will sign it.

And I also wrote a statement to bring into that meeting in case they give me any last words before terminating me:

I am not the only student to have a problem with Dr. Jerk. His arbitrary and entirely unfair grading “style” has caused tremendous discontent among most of my classmates. A former student who graduated from this program confirmed for me that Dr. Jerk has had this kind of attitude -- i.e., demeaning and belittling older female students -- for decades.

I have done nothing to merit this contemptuous treatment. On the first day of class, I asked him a reasonable question concerning my lab schedule, and he responded, with a snarl, "It shouldn't be a problem -- email me if it is!" He has been exceedingly rude and antipathetic to me ever since, belittling my classroom contributions and overreacting harshly when I was once late to class.

I asked him for reasonable accommodation concerning my knee injury and the difficulty my labmates had in providing me with people to assess. He told me that my injury could not possibly be very bad, since he saw me coming to class three days a week, and if I was really in so much pain, that I should take a leave of absence and withdraw from the semester. Such behavior is not only extremely unprofessional -- it constitutes harassment, and it is illegal. Moreover, his contention that other students sigh and roll their eyes when I contribute in class is a lie. None of the students I have asked have ever noticed such a phenomenon, and neither have the adjunct professors whose courses I take witnessed such adolescent behavior when I am speaking.

This has not been a just proceeding. This has been a witch hunt. Your personal attacks on me, my boundaries, and my behavior have been hurtful and entirely unjustified. When Dr. Dragon asked me if there was anything she could do after the colloquium on cognitive therapy, I responded honestly that I was afraid my insurance would not cover my medical expenses -- as indeed it has not. For her to take umbrage and accuse me of being sharp and disrespectful was ridiculous. I was in an emotional state, I had just stopped crying, and I responded honestly; unfortunately, I was not able to be as polite as she would have liked. Her callousness is truly appalling, considering the profession she has chosen and the position of responsibility and control she holds over so many students.

At our last meeting Dr. Freud asked me what he could do to help, and I asked him to contact the adjunct professors to get their opinion of my classroom demeanor and effect on other students. He has failed to do that. Perhaps he never intended to attempt to verify Dr. Jerk’s accusations, or perhaps he was, upon reflection, unwilling to make time to help out a student for whom he is supposed to serve as adviser. Either way, his conduct is shameful and extremely unprofessional.

I do not intend to bow my head in shame and slink out of here like a criminal when I have done nothing wrong. Your actions have been documented meticulously, and you will be held to account for everything you have done. I plan to speak with the university administration and contact my lawyer as soon as possible. You have no valid grounds for terminating me as a student, and if you dismiss me out of hand, you will effectively destroy my career prospects, because I will not be able to get into any other doctoral program.

If you wish to negotiate my leaving here on my terms, I am open to that -- provided my lawyer is part of the negotiation.

So Little Marty has served his purpose, as far as I am concerned. I don't have to wonder why I had to meet him at the wrong time to fall in love with and marry him. If this is the only thing he ever did or does for me -- dayenu.

It helped, a little. At least I don't feel completely helpless and defenseless. But if I get kicked out of this program, I don't know how I'll ever get into another one. It would completely torpedo my career.

I spent so long wandering through job after job, unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Getting into a doctoral program was a dream come true, and I worked so hard to get there. And I deserve to be there, damnit! I'm smart, I'm compassionate, and I'm good at this. I can't believe a single person can destroy my dreams out of capricious spite.

I don't know what I'll do if I can't enroll in another program. I'll be back to the existential angst that marred most of my twenties, when I had no idea what I would be when I grew up.

Much of life involves coping adaptively with uncertainty. I'm going to try to stay optimistic and believe that they're not going to kick me out. And if they do -- well, I won't go quietly.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"

1 comment:

  1. Well, it seems like Little Marty certainly knows his stuff! That should strike the fear of God into them all right. That's a great letter, and if they give you hell, that's a great comeback.

    I'm not sure about the petition...it could backfire. The administration might see it as yet another instance of overstepping your boundaries, insolence, or whatever negative label they want to give it. Even if every student in the program signs it, I'm not sure it will have its intended effect. But that's just my $.02.