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Colorblind University Student Feels Guilty For Getting Professor Suspended After He Refused To Write On The Board Using Colors She Could See

Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Pretty much all of us have been students at one point in time, and so most of us can understand the importance of being able to see and understand what's on the board.

There used to be a time when chalkboards and white chalk were our only choices, then colored chalk came along, followed by dry erase boards that are bright white making the options for writing colors nearly endless.


That wide array of options, believe it or not, isn't always a good thing.

We're about to hear from a colorblind student who is feeling guilty because an issue with her professor's color choices ended up with that professor getting suspended for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (or similar laws enacted outside the USA) and the requirement for reasonable accommodations and the school calling for a meeting.

The student explained the story on Reddit:

"I'm a 19 [year-old female] currently attending university."
"One of my main professor's insists on using the whiteboard in class, for explaining everything and anything. Whether it's words or diagrams or explanations, so it's pretty important to be able to read."
"Here's the problem: I'm colourblind and I cannot distinguish the difference between red and green ... like at all. It just looks the same to me."
"This is a common problem so I ALWAYS carry a black and blue white board marker pen with me to give to a teacher in case there isn't a blue one around. It saves time and embarrassment on my behalf."
"So I tell my professor my problem and the first lecture goes fine, he doesn't use green, and uses my blue and black pens instead (idk why but this room only had green and red). The next lecture however, I give over my pen and he starts to use the green and red pens to explain graphs and stuff. Completely un-understandable to me. So I raise my hand in a room of like.. 120 people.. and ask him if he can use the blue pen I gave him so I can actually see the difference in lines."
"The professor then kinda... scoffed? And said he couldn't change now or the rest of the class would get confused. I just nodded and looked away because his tone was so condescending. The rest of lecture he used green and red so I just couldn't write up my notes."
"(Insert- a super amazing girl in front of me asked for my email and sent me her notes that she was creating on her computer. She even changed all the colouring so I could see it properly and I was so shocked when I got them I nearly cried (people don't do this often lol))."
"Anyway, I email the professor and ask him one last time if he could just use a blue pen instead of red or green and he emailed back almost instantly to tell me that a lot of work is done in green and red and I'll probably struggle with it anyway!"
"I got so mad I emailed up the head of our school and told them everything I said here. The next day rumour was going around he was suspended and I got a confirmation of it later that day when the head of school contacted me for a meeting in a few days."
"I feel pretty bad. I don't want this guys career to suffer just because of some pens haha. The stress is getting to me. AITA reddit?" - throwawaywhiteboard0

OK, so let's recap.

The student is colorblind and cannot see red or green. Knowing that this creates an issue when it comes to things written on the board, the student keeps black and blue dry erase markers on her at all times. That way, if a teacher is trying to draw a chart or something where color matters, but only has red or green on hand, the student can give them her blue and black markers to use.

She explains her colorblindness to all of her teachers - and the professor in question was no different. The first class session was fine, the professor used her blue and black markers. Everyone could see. All was well.

Typically, you'd think once a professor found out they had a colorblind student in class that the professor would make sure to accommodate that student - particularly if the accommodation is something as easy as a marker or two.

Think that happened here?

Giphy

When it came time for the next class with this professor, he still only had red and green markers. No problem, the student handed over her blue and black markers.

Except the professor didn't use them, even when she raised her hand and asked him to. He brushed her off and told her that changing colors would confuse the other students.

That left the student unable to understand what was being written and talked about. She let it go for that class, but emailed the professor about it later, reminding him that she is colorblind and asking if he could please use blue instead of a red or green marker.

The professor responded by telling her no, he would not use blue.

His reasoning?

Because lots of things are red and green and she was just going to struggle anyway!

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Stunned, she emailed the school's dean about it.

That's when things got serious.

After that email she found out that the teacher was suspended. She later received a follow-up email from the school asking for a meeting.

Now the student feels bad about complaining. Her intention wasn't to get the professor in trouble, she just wanted markers used that she could actually see! She was even willing to provide the markers. The professor just outright refused to use them.

So she asked Reddit if they thought she was an ass for complaining and possibly causing damage to the professor's career. Reddit pretty much unanimously told her no.

There was absolutely an ass in this situation - but it wasn't her.

"His career isn't suffering over pens. His career is in trouble because he refused to accommodate your disability. He could have made such a simple change but he decided to be an asshole on a power trip instead." - MyRockySpine
"It's a pen, but he wanted to go on a power trip about it. In the future, though, I'd see if your university has some kind of Office of Disability that can help get you accommodations and help you communicate these issues." - Wrappedinwashi
"He has not been suspended over a couple of pens. If he has been suspended, it is for being in breach of university codes of conduct and probably the law."
"You have an absolute right to have your special needs met. You placed no special burden of your professor. He was just being an asshole."
"Source: I was a University lecturer/professor for 15 years." - User417218
"You told him you're colour blind, you came prepared with pens in case he had none and he still chose to inconvenience you and refused to change full well knowing that you would be unable to read or participate in his class. For some reason he's deliberately being vindictive." - Sonofasnitch
"This wasn't about pens, this was about the professor being a spiteful a$hole and refusing to accommodate OP's disability, which is highly, highly illegal in many countries."
"She didn't get him suspended over pens, she got him suspended for that. He probably didn't like having any part of his teaching methods (no matter how small or reasonable the request) questioned in class, so he decided to go on a petty power trip." - Hellkat1988
"As a college faculty member, accessibility is extremely important in our line of work. Our faculty have been through many mandatory workshops dedicated to things like making syllabi readable by text to speech software, how to make sure students with extra needs can apply for assistance, and how to make PowerPoints using easy to read fonts. His attitude probably goes against the mission of the institution, and deserved to be called out." - hybbprqag

We have no idea why the professor would choose such a petty little hill to proverbially die on or why he was so willing to damage his career over this. But hey, some peoplle are passionate about their red and green markers, we guess?

No word yet on how that meeting went. Hopefully we will get an update.