The Holiday Blues
You’re in your faculty office late in the afternoon on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when the department administrative assistant phones you and says, “The Department Chair isn’t here this afternoon and I have a very upset student on the line. She wants to talk to a faculty member. But she won’t give her name. Please, can I transfer the call to you?” You agree to help out. The AA transfers the call and the student, obviously nervous and not a little upset, says, “Hello. Who is this?” You identify yourself as a faculty member in the department and ask who is calling. The student, who is clearly very ill at ease, strenuously declines to give her name. She does say that she is in a class being taught in your department. “What class?” you ask. She says she will get to that later and then recounts her predicament. At the beginning of the semester she thought she was doing okay. But on the first big test she got a 70%. She had been thinking she would be a major in your department so she needs a C in the course. So she talked to the professor because it was near the time to drop with a W, and he told her not to drop the course because the things she got wrong on the first exam would be easy for her to understand as the term progressed. He invited her to come in and see him during his office hours. He promised he would help her and that she would do okay in the end. So she did not drop the class. She did come to see the professor one time; but after that she had a big project for another course and couldn’t keep the appointment she had made for a second consultation. She said that she e-mailed him and left messages on his voicemail about missing the appointment, but that he did not answer. Her voice starts to get more desperate. She says, “In class the professor began saying things about racial minorities that made me uncomfortable. And it seemed to me that he was talking about me because he was looking at me when he said those things…and,...
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