I teach philosophy at the university level. This semester is no different from any other I have four classes. Three of these are smaller upper division classes and one is a freshman level logic course. The logic class is in a lecture hall that holds up to 300 students and every section fills.
As the term began and the lower division students began to file in everything was going well. The seats were full, all of them. Every section has people trying to add and so this first class was past capacity. There were students in the aisles and the one handicapped place had been occupied by a young woman in a wheelchair.
About five minutes into my lecture a very large young woman walks through the door and looks around. There are no seats available. I am mid sentence and she walks up to me and says that she needs to speak with me. I do not like to be interrupted, especially when it's the first day and I'm doing a fucking syllabus review. (Usually this review consists of, "This is where the syllabus is available. You're all adults read it, and know if I find you plagiarizing or cheating in anyway there will be no warning I will fail you and report you to the school.")
Anyways, I'm halfway through this very brief statement and she says she needs to speak to me.
"Miss please take a seat on the floor and we can address whatever it is you need to address after class."
"I can't sit on the floor, I'm handicapped."
"Well, if you had arrived earlier there are handicapped spaces provided you could have gotten a seat."
"I couldn't find parking and I arrived late." (It's the first day of class, arrive early...)
"At this moment in time I can't do anything for you, but I can see that you walked in here on your own accord, so I'm going to assume you can also sit and get up on your own."
"Can you ask the girl in the wheelchair to move please? She has a seat and in rolls."
At this point I am livid. I know the handicapped student well and she NEEDS that spot in addition to being a paraplegic she's also deaf in one ear. She needs the spot and she's established herself there.
"Miss, she was the second person in the room, I will not ask her to move. If you cannot sit you may stand, but this conversation is over."
It was at this point I went back to lecture. The larger girl sat her ass on the ground and got up at the end, shocker...
At the end of the class she comes up to me and says that I was unfair to her. Unfair because I wasn't being conscious of her weight and how it negatively impacts her life... OH THE THINGS I WANTED TO SAY. Instead I held back and I asked her a few questions.
"Are you enrolled in the class or trying to get a seat?"
"I'm not enrolled, yet. I was hoping to talk to you about that."
"If you put yourself on the waitlist by the second week half the class will drop and it will be a non issue. There will be plenty of seats for you to sit in."
"I don't fit in the lecture hall seats, I'm handicapped, I told you."
"Are you registered as handicapped with the school or state?" I asked this question because if the answer is yes I can have the dept. send over another disabled table that she can sit at.
"Well... No, but my weight prevents me..."
At this point I cut her off and said the following, "If you aren't registered as handicapped then you aren't handicapped. There is one registered handicapped student in the class and that seat is for her. If in the future you arrive early and sit there you will have to move. In the meantime I will try to get another desk moved into the room."
"Yes, that's the best I can do for you. If you were registered with the school as handicapped then I could very easily get a desk moved in here otherwise it's not appropriate."
This went back and forth for a while and I finally ended it by telling her to go register with the school as disabled and that then we could proceed forward. At my institution this is how this is done. There is a short supply of desks for disabled students. That's how it is. Every time I tried to explain this to her she'd offer another excuse, then another. At one point she asked why the girl in the wheelchair couldn't use the little table that folded out of her very cool chair (My words not hers, her chair is AWESOME.) I was livid after all of this.
After we parted ways I thought that would be the end of it, she would register as needing assistance and I wouldn't have to deal with it again. Then this morning I got an email from my dean. Instead of doing the easy thing and claiming a disability she said that I, "Fat shamed her in front of a large body of students." It's a real shame for her that I record all my lectures and interactions with students. So she has ZERO grounds for her claim.
I never made any comments about her weight, I was calm and polite, but fuck me. My dean and I discussed it and he sided with me after listening to the recording. Now she's in the class, I saw her name pop on the registry this morning... Still no disability and I know that I'm going to have to have this insane conversation with her again.
If you can't fit your ass into a lecture all chair sit on the fucking ground if you don't want to register as disabled. If she interrupts lecture again she's going to get tossed out for a day. "I reserve the right to remove any disruptive student from the class." It's on the syllabus. I don't like doing it, it means a loss of points and it counts as an absence (three and it's 10% off the final grade) but I'm not going to put up with this shit.
Okay, that's the end of my rant.
Edit: Nice to see FPH on the front page and all the discussion generated from my rant. I appreciate the feedback.