My Third Graduate Class at Hopkins

My third class was my second attempt at Data Structures. It was taught by a rather mild-mannered woman who is an employee at APL. She wasn’t mean, or egotistical. She did seem concerned with providing me with disability accommodations.

I’m not using her name because, unlike many of the professors and administrators at Hopkins, I don’t really blame her. Yes, she screwed up my disability accommodations. Yes, there were other screw-ups beyond her control. These screw-ups led me to drop the class. (For which I was not reimbursed.) But she exhibited no malice. She didn’t make fun of me, nor did she break the law in any way I can see.

Something about Data Structures is hard for me. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, but I have trouble keeping the logic in my head.

For my midterm, I surrendered my laptop, cellphone, and textbook to her and went up to the Optics lab by myself with the exam. One of my accommodations is to take exams in a private, quiet room with time-and-a-half.

While I was up there, someone knocked on the door, came in and wanted to look around at the equipment. I had to stop my exam, explain that I was taking an exam, and convince them to leave. Luckily, they were polite and left. I don’t deal well with interruptions during exams — most people don’t, but I believe it’s harder on me than on most people because I have ADHD. That’s one of the reasons I take exams in a private room.

The professor also knocked on the door at one point. She asked how the exam was going. That was kind and responsible of her.

I turned the exam in when I was done — I believe to the APL office. Then went down to the classroom to collect my things.

The professor had left my computer and my cell phone in a darkened classroom where anyone could have taken them. My textbook was not to be found.

I called Dr. Chlan. She contacted the professor, who was driving back to Virginia. I asked her to turn around, come back, and help me find my textbook. The professor didn’t want to come back, and it wasn’t clear she’d be able to find the textbook. She told me she’d left it in the classroom along with my cell and computer. She was sorry she’d forgotten. I told her she could drive back to Virginia.

A problem with Hopkins EP is they don’t appear to have set procedures for providing disability accommodations. I believe some accommodations are very common — with extra time on tests and texting in a private, quiet space being the most common. But I’ve never seen any evidence EP has any set procedures for providing common accommodations, nor that it provides any information to professors and staff on the accommodation process.

So even if a student receives a common accommodation, every time they enter a classroom, it’s as if EP is setting up that accommodation for the first time, ever. This has been my experience.

The mid-term was right before spring break. I had hoped to use that period to study hard and catch up on concepts I really didn’t understand. But the course relied heavily on the textbook, and I didn’t have my textbook.

I learned not long after that a student had found my textbook left in the classroom and turned it in to the APL office. All I had to do was pick it up during working hours. I work full-time, so this meant taking time off from work. I was also on crutches due to an ankle injury, and there was snow and ice on the ground.

Parking at APL is hell. I was only able to find a space about 1/4 of a mile away from the office. It was hard getting from my car to the office on crutches, but I did. But my textbook wasn’t there. No one knew anything about it. I went back to work without my textbook. That evening, I contacted people. They assured me the textbook would be there.

I finally got it. I don’t remember if I had to go in two or three times. But I had to waste about half a day of my paid time-off in order to fix a mistake that wasn’t my problem.

I ended up not having my textbook for about two weeks. By this time, I was so behind, I didn’t feel I could make up the material. So I dropped the course.

If you’re disabled and require classroom accommodations at Hopkins EP, you’d better be brilliant. I mean, nearly the most talented person with the material in every class you take. Because you won’t receive all the accommodations Hopkins promises. Some will be present, some won’t. And you’ll suffer through EP personnel making the strangest damn errors. You may not have full and timely access to the material if you require accommodations for that access. And EP personnel aren’t going to treat you as if you’re a full person. (You don’t leave a person’s cell phone and computer in a classroom and walk away.) So you have to be strong enough to put up with that, too.

Me — I’m fairly smart, but engineering is a second career for me. I had to learn the math and thinking patterns as an adult. So these courses would be hard for me, anyway. But every semester I’ve had to deal with EP failing to provide the classroom accommodations it promises me. Fixing these issues can take up to a third of my study time.