No-glasses rule for public speaking class? Really?
July 18, 2010 3:54 PM   Subscribe

You're taking a public speaking class at a college located in the U.S. The instructor advises the class that glasses are not to be worn when making a speech, because the audience needs to be able to see the speaker's eyes. The problem with this directive is that you cannot read anything, at any size, without your glasses, and you don't have/can't wear contacts. What would you do? (A student attending a school in the U.S., which gets the usual accredited university /federal funds/Pheaa and student loans etc., is facing this situation.)
posted by anonymous to Education (62 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
For shorter speeches, I'd memorize my speech. For longer speeches, I'd talk to my professor about making an exception for me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:56 PM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just talk to the instructor, I'm sure this has come up before.
posted by fshgrl at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2010

Uhhhh... that's incredibly weird. Would you tell a person in a wheelchair that people have to stand during their speech to convey an air of authority? I can understand asking a student to memorize a speech, but asking a student to stop using their necessary aid -- particularly something that would look odd to an audience accustomed to seeing the speaker in glasses -- is a bit much.

I'd privately talk to a higher-up in the department. You don't want to make a stink about it, per se, but this is ridiculous. Has your professor not seen press conferences from, say, the White House? People wear glasses all the time.
posted by Madamina at 4:05 PM on July 18, 2010 [44 favorites]

Does your university have an office for students with special needs or disabilities? That's where I would start. Second choice: ombudsman. Third choice: dean of students-- not dean of faculty or college.

I am a professor and I think that requirement is offensive and it probably breaks all sorts of very good rules and maybe a law or two. There's just no good reason to have that requirement.

On preview: you could ask the instructor. Maybe she does make exceptions. If she says no, then definitely don't back down. See the office for students with special needs or whatever your institution calls it.

Good luck.
posted by vincele at 4:06 PM on July 18, 2010 [19 favorites]

That's ridiculous. I suspect that various offices at said college would be supportive of a student faced with this kind of requirement; it's outrageous. The instructor needs to understand that glasses are not some kind of fashion accessory, and asking someone to do without them as part of an assignment is simply unacceptable. As someone who desperately needs glasses (-13), I wouldn't trust myself to just stand still in any place other than my own bedroom minus my glasses.

I'd probably start with the department, mention to the departmental secretary what's going on, and see if they make any suggestions. If that goes nowhere, I would seek out the disabilities office, though the merely legally blind (most people who require glasses are legally blind) are rarely their clients I'm sure. Barring that: I'd check the ombuds office.

In any case, I wouldn't even consider for a moment doing a presentation without my glasses. Not for a moment.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:06 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think Malcolm X did pretty well as a public speaker, and am certain he always wore glasses. I'm sure the hive mind could think of other great American/foreign speakers who always wore glasses.
posted by allthewhile at 4:08 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Your first step should be to talk to the instructor. If you don't have contacts, it's clearly worse to be giving a speech where you can't use cue cards and can't judge the audiences reaction. From your question, I can't tell whether it was an offhand question or a class expectation. The former is obviously much less serious than the latter.

If the professor is uncooperative or an ass about it, only then should you take it to the department. At that point, it becomes a potential issue of discrimination. Don't escalate unless you have to though - always give the person a chance to correct themselves first.
posted by chrisamiller at 4:10 PM on July 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

Frankly, that is pretty bizarre, as eyes are plainly visible even when glasses are worn, as long as they're not sunglasses! Moreover, your ADA instincts feel right to me; we would expect accommodations be granted to students who need them. Other examples: wheelchairs, hearing aids.

If this were me I would call the prof out on this bullshit, but that's easy for me to say that from here when there's nothing at stake. Fortunately every school has an office for students with disabilities that should be able to disabuse this prof of the notion that he can require his students to remove corrective apparatus that they require in order to see.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:10 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Quick addition: I wouldn't go to the department chair.

Others with more years in academia will probably chime in, but my sense is the department chair isn't there really to handle this kind of thing with your interests in mind. Although if the instructor is breaking a policy or law the chair would intervene, as a student it's better for you and likely faster to take it through one of those other channels.
posted by vincele at 4:10 PM on July 18, 2010

How else are you going to dramatically pause, take off your glasses, chew on the ear piece a little-while looking pensive- and stab the air with the glasses to emphasize your point if you don't wear glasses?
posted by Gungho at 4:11 PM on July 18, 2010 [22 favorites]

This...I...what? This is a completely bizarre and inappropriate requirement. You or your friend should speak to the instructor, then to the chair (filing a written complaint, if necessary), and on down the bureaucratic line. (IAAP, although IANYP.)
posted by thomas j wise at 4:14 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Absolutely talk to the instructor. I'm actually a bit surprised this question was posted (particularly anonymously), before discussing directly with the instructor. I doubt very much that any instructor is going to say "No, you can't wear glasses even if without them you're legally blind." If he/she were to say that, then it would be interesting to discuss alternatives:

* memorize the speech
* tell the instructor that you feel strongly that you need an exception, and are willing to discuss this with the department chair
* talk to someone in the student advising department
* if it's early in the semester, try to switch to another instructor

But at the moment, it's best to assume that the instructor will be reasonable when the student says he/she can't even read note cards with large-size print.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:15 PM on July 18, 2010

That likely violates whatever your school's disability accommodation law is. Contact someone in the Dean of Students' office to find the right person to call, but short answer is that a professor generally cannot require you to perform coursework without your adaptive apparatus. Let the disabilities office handle this on your behalf.
posted by catlet at 4:16 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Addendum: I know it's annoying, but you cannot skip steps up the ladder when you're complaining--if you omit talking to the chair, I guarantee that the next administrator up will bump the matter right back down to him or her. We've actually got flowcharts laying out this sort of thing.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:18 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd be quite offended by this instruction. I wear glasses, and because of an astigmatism I've never been able to wear contacts. While I certainly could squint and/or memorize my way through a presentation, that would be a far, far bigger distraction my presentation than the ordinary use of my glasses could ever be. Nthing talk to the instructor, and if you don't get a reasonable response, go higher.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:25 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I knew there was a reason why Steve Jobs was such an awful presenter.

This is a ridiculous claim by your instructor and you should tell them so. If they continue to be stupid or if you think they mark you down, complain, complain, complain. You won't lose.
posted by A189Nut at 4:25 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not only is the professor forcibly removing a medically prescribed accommodation (illegal, yes), his pedagogy isn't sound. Judging the reactions of your audience, being able to focus on the skeptical, making eye contact as needed, all require that the normally sighted speaker can see. More, it's utterly bogus that an audience isn't able to discern the eyes of a spectacled speaker any less so than a speaker who is far away from the audience, or against bright lights or the sun, or is obstructed behind a stage pole, or whatever other obstacles there are to a live audience moment. The whole magic of an amazing speech is that it overcomes the moment and whatever first impressions an audience has of the speaker. Also, glasses or not, the person in the back row isn't going to be able to see the speaker's eyes, anyway.

If this student isn't able to address these and other fine points from this thread with the professor directly, in the hopes that this professor perceives this teachable moment and becomes a better instructor, than my vote (as a former college administrator in student services), is a visit to the ombudsman in order to find out the most effective route in this school's organization chart, or if no ombudsman is available, an appointment with a student services administrator in the student success department or similar. I agree that visiting the dean of this department may not be useful. If resolution isn't reached from those routes, by all means talk to an ADA or Student Accommodations specialist about universal access and why it isn't just about ramps and grab bars, but about all of us navigating a complex society just as we are, for chrissakes.

If anything, it's even more overwhelmingly persuasive when a speaker approaches the podium, takes a breath, and puts on a serious pair of glasses before levelly looking out at the audience. Hasn't this professor ever watched The West Wing??
posted by rumposinc at 4:33 PM on July 18, 2010 [11 favorites]

Give a presentation on presenters wearing glasses during presentations.
posted by knowles at 4:34 PM on July 18, 2010 [20 favorites]

I like knowles' idea!
posted by rhizome at 4:41 PM on July 18, 2010

I wonder if dude means "all glasses," or "FFS, you newbies, quit getting up here in your non-scrip Oakleys, slouching all over the place, with your Bluetooth earpiece still in." I'd definitely request clarification.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:44 PM on July 18, 2010

From the OP:
From the student: "I should add that the instructor expects the students to to read the speech from their notes (with a copy for the instructor), and has stated that the students should just make the print bigger." (wording changed slightly to hide the genders of those involved)

I have given the student a link to this question. When the student was talking about this, I was getting quite angry on student's behalf...

Great responses so far.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:51 PM on July 18, 2010

Start by talking calmly to the professor, assuming that there has been a misunderstanding. (I think there must have been one, because this is an idiotic rule.)

If they insist it is all glasses, insist that you cannot see without them and cannot do a speech without them. (What, you're going to take them off at the podium, and put them back on at the end? No.) If the professor continues to insist, then you can go to the chair, ombudsman, or someone at the office of students with disabilities about what you should do, as you cannot see without glasses, and [lots of people who give good speeches] wear glasses.
posted by jeather at 4:55 PM on July 18, 2010

The perverse part of me would make the speech large print, go to the podium, look blankly at the professor (or in his general direction) and tell him that you cannot read the speech and would like accommodation for your disability. (Beforehand of course checking what the relative university rules are and mentioning this in the request.)

But I'm a bit of a butt.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:58 PM on July 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

Didn't preview. Tell the professor that you cannot read without glasses, and then you can ask what solutions they propose. If nothing suggested works, and if the professor doesn't back down, then move on up. Do not feel obliged to accept something that won't work out well just to make the professor happy.
posted by jeather at 4:59 PM on July 18, 2010

Get it in writing! An email request for clarification, perhaps? To later be forwarded to their boss / the disability office / etc with polite note to the effect of 'wtf? plz to be fixing nao kthx'.
posted by Lebannen at 5:07 PM on July 18, 2010

Wild guess here -- your instructor doesn't wear glasses. In fact, everybody in his family has almost perfect vision.

because the audience needs to be able to see the speaker's eyes

Eyes? I can't even make out which one's talking, up there.
Preposterous. Don't talk to the instructor, get a message to the dean about this requirement.
posted by Rash at 5:12 PM on July 18, 2010

Chiming in that the rule is absurd and offensive. Yes, maybe the audience could see the eyes better, but the eyes would be making wonky eye contact since, you know, the person can't see for shit.

Talk to the professor, then move on to the ombudsperson. If the professor has already been asked about this and only has the moronic suggestion of larger print, then maybe it's time to go ahead and move on up to the ombudsperson.
posted by elpea at 5:19 PM on July 18, 2010

I have terrible vision. Without my glasses (or contacts, but I prefer to wear my glasses because my eyes tend to get itchy if I wear my contacts for more than a few hours), I can't see clearly more than 3 inches from my face.

So, here's what I would do. I should say I'm kind of a jerk when it comes to obnoxiousness like your prof is displaying. I'd go up, take my glasses off, and hold my notes three inches from my face, so the top of the page is just at the bridge of your nose. Make the font enormous so you have to flip pages every line or two. Hey, they can still see your eyes!

People in glasses are hotter anyway, and we all know sex sells. This argument, to me, has a lot more validity than your prof's.
posted by AlisonM at 5:20 PM on July 18, 2010

To me, the word "advises" means: it might be a good idea but it's not cast in stone. Wear your glasses and if s/he says anything, say that you are legally blind.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:20 PM on July 18, 2010

Don't just tell the professor this.

Email it.

You want this on record, rather than just a 'but I asked nicely' on your part.

Especially if this baloney is not in the syllabus.

'dear professor 20/20,

I notice that you are requiring all students to remove eyeglasses during class performances. (refer here to the syllabus, or the date it was stated in class.)

While your suggestions about audience eye contact were thought provoking, I am unable to meet this requirement. Without my prescription (list it here if you want, but not necessary) glasses, I am unable to read even very large fonts. Contact lenses are not an option for me(none of 20/20s business why this may be the case - to bring the wheelchair example in, 'just get prosthetic legs would not fly, so you are preempting that line of argument.)

I would be happy to discuss this with you during office hours, but I'm sure you agree that my bringing a ream of paper, each sheet printed with one word, would be far more distracting to my classmates than a smooth speech aided my my prescription glasses.'

This is the general sentiment. You'll want to edit this, but it should give you a start. (composing correspondence on iPhone is above my pay grade) this gives you a paper trail of your original complaint, ideally, nobody can say you asked for anything unreasonable, or at the last minute, or in an inappropriate tone. (so, make this timely and keep the tone professional)

Best of luck to you!
posted by bilabial at 5:20 PM on July 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'd make it a total Mr. Magoo moment, knock the notes off the podium, hell, knock over the podium, trip over it.....flail about on your hands and knees feeling for the note cards...

But seriously, I'd get with other glasses wearing students and en masse appeal to the instructor, there are so many reasons this is wrong.
posted by Jazz Hands at 5:25 PM on July 18, 2010

If the professor wanted the student's eyes to be seen, then they should not be reading anything at all. Ideally, public speakers should memorize the speech and should always be looking at the audience. It shows confidence and also allows the speaker to project their voice outwards rather than speaking downward into a piece of paper. Whether you wear glasses or not, get in the habit of either memorizing the speech or speaking about a subject you know well so that notes are not required.

BTW, the only glasses which do not allow eyes to be seen are sunglasses. Regular prescription eyewear have no effect on the ability to see one's eyes.
posted by JJ86 at 5:28 PM on July 18, 2010

If somebody at this college are interested in history: George Washington wore reading glasses at a successful public speech, at least once:

"After reading a portion of the letter with his eyes squinting at the small writing, Washington suddenly stopped. His officers stared at him, wondering. Washington then reached into his coat pocket and took out a pair of reading glasses. Few of them knew he wore glasses, and were surprised.

"Gentlemen," said Washington, "you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."

In that single moment of sheer vulnerability, Washington's men were deeply moved, even shamed, and many were quickly in tears, now looking with great affection at this aging man who had led them through so much. Washington read the remainder of the letter, then left without saying another word, realizing their sentiments.

His officers then cast a unanimous vote, essentially agreeing to the rule of Congress. Thus, the civilian government was preserved and the experiment of democracy in America continued."

"After reaching middle age, Washington had to wear glasses for reading. In those days, glasses were just as unfashionable as wearing hearing aids has been until quite recently. People were ashamed to wear glasses, considering them a humiliating disfigurement like a clubfoot or hunchback. Washington used his reading glasses only in the privacy of his family or among intimate friends."

I believe the stigma of using reading glasses has changed since 1783.
posted by iviken at 5:37 PM on July 18, 2010 [9 favorites]

I'm scratching my head a bit over why one would want to stay in this class. Clearly this person isn't qualified to teach the subject, so why press on? Complain and demand a refund, take your case to the local newspapers if you run into any hassle. Unless there are extreme mitigating circumstances not made clear here, this is crazy stuff not worth negotiating with. Make clear to the administration that the instructor doesn't understand his topic; get with the other glasses wearing students, and non glasses wearing students, and tell him to fuck off.
posted by kmennie at 5:41 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

At some point it would be helpful if the instructor addressed the point of how to compensate for being a glasses-wearer (and, in fact, tactics for a variety of other disabilities). If you DO go and talk to the instructor directly, that might be an angle to work.
posted by Ys at 6:28 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your instructor is f*cking incompetant. Don't politely protest, just go to the Dean and ask for your tuition refund.
posted by ovvl at 6:33 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding getting it in writing. Send an email to the instructor and ask for clarification on that point. Like,

"Hi, I just want to make sure I got this right when we spoke in class: I'm not to wear my glasses during my speech under any circumstances?"

Is it in the syllabus? It would be AWESOME if it's actually in the syllabus. No need for the email in that case.

Print out that email/syllabus and bring it to every bloody office there is. And if it helps to know: I think most of us in here are offended on behalf of your friend. For those of who who actually need our glasses, the world looks like this, not like this. Grrr.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:34 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is a ridiculous request. Your professor can't ask you to not wear glasses if you are prescribed to wear them in order to function normally. The fact that you can't see your audience would make you fuck up your speech, IMO. Your prof clearly has a problem with those who wear glasses, which is a whole lot of people, so if this epic line of bullshit is in the syllabus, I would take it higher than him and get it fixed. Ask someone higher up than him, and if they agree with him, cite discrimination and sue the hell out of the university. I've never heard something more utterly incompetent than this.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:39 PM on July 18, 2010

I cannot understand how this is not blatant discrimination of the basis of health/disability.

I'd be hightailing it to make a complaint about discrimination along official channels, if talking to them one more time doesn't achieve results.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:44 PM on July 18, 2010

Perhaps: wear your glasses normally when you give your speech, because your professor clearly was referring only to decorative fashion accessories and not medically necessary optical aids, and can't possibly have been so foolish as to run this blatantly afoul of the law?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:12 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

You definitely need to talk to your school's disability center, not just to get this fixed for yourself but also so they can tell the professor that this is Not Cool so the professor never tries to impose this requirement again.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:33 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

I am a department assistant. If one of my professors was pulling this kind of crap, I'd take it to the chair of my department myself.

Don't discount the department assistant as a possible, though silent, ally.

But always, always, always talk to the instructor first. Then you can say, "When I asked the instructor, I was told....." and the chair can bring that up with the professor as needed.
posted by zizzle at 7:33 PM on July 18, 2010

Is your prof aware that they make glasses with transparent lenses? The kind where you can see out and in? Seriously, this professor is a joke. I wouldn't even bring it up with him again, because this requirement alone speaks of serious asshattery. I'd just drop the class. Then tell the dean about the clown they've got on faculty.

In addition to an ADA violation, I'd point out that there are certain ethnicities for whom nearsightedness is much more common. So when you call out this joke of a professor, be sure to play the race card, too.

Or print your speech on cue-cards and say that at arm's length, you can only see foot-high letters without your glasses (this is true for me).

If you wear glasses everyday, all day, the only person who should get to see you without them is your boyfriend or girlfriend. When you are making love.
posted by hhc5 at 7:39 PM on July 18, 2010

Why are you taking the class? Is it something you have to take, or do you just want to? If you have to take it, does it have to be done now and/or with this professor? Because if you don't have to be here the easiest thing to do is to just not take the class.

If you stay in the class (because you have to take it, really want to take it, or because at this point you want to rip the professor a new one), first go talk to the professor.

Side note: I've had a few that were unclear about rules/expectations and the entire class thought it was something stupid until it was clarified. The two that immediately spring to mind for me and aren't nearly as serious, are how one of my professors would take off points for a paper being too short if there was an entire line of space that could have fit text on the last page of an essay and a professor who gave us online tests but didn't tell us they had to be done by a certain time of day on the due date.

If that doesn't work ( and really, don't rule out that it will) I say you have 2 real options:

1 - Go talk to someone higher up and complain. Disability services would be a great place to start, especially since your wearing glasses makes you someone they wouldn't normally have to cater to. It would make sense that you talk to them since this is a disability issue and they can point you in the right direction.

2 - If you want to be a bit of an ass, then either wear the glasses anyway or make sure the print is big enough for you to read it. This screams poster board to me, especially since the requirements quoted upthread don't say anything about the size of the notes people should use during the presentation.

Making it big and holding it in front of your face would be effective. But you're creating another problem for yourself with that because holding the speech in front of your face like that is no good for giving speeches at all. The point of being an ass like this is to do everything as correctly as possible as stated by the professor, not to create more problems.

Hopefully you'll have a rubric that tells you why points are lost. If not, you can go ask the professor why points were lost. Maybe even get them to write it "so you can have a reminder for next time."

If you worry about that, you could ask if someone from the department or disability services would go to class with you and watch your presentation. I've been in classes with disabled people who had someone come in during this kind of thing and tests to make sure nothing wonky happened.
posted by theichibun at 7:47 PM on July 18, 2010

I don't see why everyone is getting so worked up about this, honestly. "The instructor advises" does not equal "the instructor requires." There's a big difference between a suggestion and a requirement. Keep your glasses on.
posted by agent99 at 8:26 PM on July 18, 2010

Weird. I would counter that glasses make you look smart/intellectual/etc which are good qualities for a public speaker!
posted by radioamy at 8:46 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

For the record, I wouldn't try to go glasses-less and memorize. I am similarly blind, and when I take off my glasses I feel very disoriented, and I can't make eye contact or even really see what I'm focusing on, since I can't focus. When giving a speech you need to be aware of your surroundings, be able to move freely (unless you're at a podium), look around, make eye contact, etc.
posted by radioamy at 8:49 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would drop this class and take speech with someone else next semester.
posted by notned at 9:16 PM on July 18, 2010

That instructor, if relatively new to teaching, might not realize this is an illegal requirement. You should not have any fear about this. Ask the instructor for an exemption from what seems to have been stated as a rule. If there is not instant recognition of the error with reassurances that your use of glasses is not at all what was meant and you feel you still might be penalized for wearing them, then go to the head of disability services or, if there is not one, to the dean or assistant dean of students with the situation. As the law professor used to say, "If it is not possible, it is not necessary."
posted by Anitanola at 10:18 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wanted to add that, unlike elementary and high school teachers, teachers in colleges and universities do not have any training at all in teaching. They have only the faculty handbook to tell them what the rules are about what they can and cannot do with students -- with obvious exceptions for teachers in the department of education who are supposed to know this stuff.
posted by Anitanola at 10:24 PM on July 18, 2010

I wanted to add that, unlike elementary and high school teachers, teachers in colleges and universities do not have any training at all in teaching.

They also aren't trained in disability law, discrimination law, etc.. They're just dropped into a room full of students, learning by their mistakes.

This teacher is doing something wrong, something that could adversely affect your grade, but also the grades of countless other students who wear glasses. (Nevermind not being able to read my speech, I also just cannot feel comfortable around other people if I'm not able to see their faces. That, alone, would make me give a horrible performance!) It's very likely just stupid non-thinking, on your professor's part, born out of ignorance (don't underestimate how little those who don't wear glasses can understand about those who do -- my boyfriend, with perfect vision, literally does not understand what it would be like for things close to him to be blurry). But, whatever it is, it's wrong, and you're not the only one who likely stands to suffer because of it.

If you just leave the class, or try to memorize the speech, or otherwise just try to skirt the issue, you're going to: hurt yourself (because either you'll have an W on your record, or because you'll get a worse grade in the class); do nothing to help the others with impaired vision in the course. That's lose-lose.

Talk to the professor, or e-mail (be deferential, be kind, but be firm: make it very clear that you cannot complete the assignment without your glasses). If the professor gives no leeway, do the right thing and escalate this. Disabilities resources may be the right place to start. The chair of the department could also work. Even if you fail to understand the flowchart of responsibility at your school, it doesn't matter: You go to anyone and say, "My professor will not let me wear glasses but expects me to read a speech," and they'll either help or find the right person to help you.
posted by meese at 11:03 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

When you have an issue with a professor the first step, except in cases of violence or sexual harassment, is to talk with the professor. When I have had students come to me with complaints my first question is always "have you talked to your professor? "
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:11 AM on July 19, 2010

because the audience needs to be able to see the speaker's eyes.

This is a new addition to the top ten list of stupidest things I have ever heard in academia. How is the audience meant to see your eyes when you are holding your cue cards 6 inches from your face and squinting?

I am not the most diplomatic person in the world, and thus would just laugh in the professor's face and wear the glasses anyway.
posted by elizardbits at 3:34 AM on July 19, 2010

Fucking George Washington wore glasses during his speech. This is positively un-American.

Also, the revised ADA stipulates that glasses & contacts are no longer an exemption for the disability classification.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:51 AM on July 19, 2010

Given that glasses are, you know, made of glass, are they really going to prevent your audience from seeing your eyes? I mean if you showed up in mirrored sunglasses, that might be weird (unless you're Joey Ramone or Lou Reed) but just glasses? Someone has been tampering with your prof's coffee. Talk to him about this.

The issue here is that if you absolutely must must must get a good grade in this class and he's going to be a wanker about things, you might be drawing a line in the sand in front of some kind of wacked prima donna. If this guy get's really pushy about this such that you have to go to student services with the issue, you can pretty much pick him up with your mental tweezers and put him in the wanker basket and start worrying about how this is going to effect your grade. If it comes to that, I'd advise drop and retake or see about changing sessions to someone who is drinking unadulterated coffee
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:58 AM on July 19, 2010

From the OP:
I also might mention that, after instructor mentioned the no-glasses rule, student informed instructor that student needed glasses to read the notes, and instructor firmly reiterated the no-glasses rule. So, it was not a suggestion. Instructor made it pretty clear that no glasses were to be worn while speaking.

I really wish this was some kind of joke, but I hope student can get this foolishness resolved so student can focus on, well, learning.

To me, having to watch someone speak who isn't wearing needed glasses, and being uncomfortable as a result, would make me uncomfortable; and I hate the idea that an instructor would put student into the position of having to worry about it. If other students can use notes, student shouldn't be prevent from doing so, because of some arbitrary, pointless rule.

I may post the outcome, but only if student is comfortable with me doing so, but the responses have been wonderful. Again, the student is continuing to read this thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:33 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Speak to disability support services immediately on the matter. Mention that you fear retaliation for this as well. DSS staff will be able to help on that matter as well. The professor will be informed of the need to accommodate you within reason. The professor will also be informed that any form of retaliation on this matter will be every bit as troublesome for them as refusal to accommodate.

Schools do not mess around when it comes to the ADA, especially if they receive federal funding. It's very tough to prove a professor is acting maliciously in a subjectively graded course where they fudge a "low A" into a "high B", but that takes some pretty serious malice. I would suggest talking to the head of the department as well and inquiring whether there is any way of avoiding such a potential situation without a "W" on your record or wasting a class worth of tuition.

If your DSS department is any good, they will be able to stem this easily with no hard feelings. They hold legitimate authority that doesn't require the professor to swallow their pride to take seriously. When someone they see as more "on their level" says poor eyesight is a legitimate disability and removing glasses is no more reasonable than removing a hearing aid, it's a lot easier to listen.

Trust in your DSS department, express your fears of retaliation or resentment, and let them do their job. Just because it's easier to accommodate those with poor eyesight doesn't mean it's any less important to do so.
posted by Saydur at 8:04 AM on July 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

I also might mention that, after instructor mentioned the no-glasses rule, student informed instructor that student needed glasses to read the notes, and instructor firmly reiterated the no-glasses rule. So, it was not a suggestion. Instructor made it pretty clear that no glasses were to be worn while speaking.

I am a faculty member in a communication department, and I have taught public speaking in the past. This is the most absurdly wrong thing I have ever heard. I have *never* heard this before, and in fact I just consulted FOUR different public speaking textbooks, and not one of them makes any mention of removing glasses so the audience can see the speaker's eyes*.

This is a patently incorrect rule on the part of the instructor, and one that will unfairly harm people with a medical condition. There is no pedagogical justification for this rule. If that's not discrimination, I don't know what is.

The student needs to go immediately to the department chair, and if the rule is not overturned, continue on up the food chain. This instructor needs to stop doing this NOW.

*If the lenses on the student's glasses were very heavily tinted, I might see a case for asking him/her to substitute with a pair with clear lenses, but only after ascertaining that the tinted lenses were not medically necessary.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:16 AM on July 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

> The student needs to go immediately to the department chair, and if the rule is not overturned, continue on up the food chain. This instructor needs to stop doing this NOW.

I have to agree. The OP's clarification shows that the instructor is both stubborn and unreasonable.
posted by languagehat at 9:33 AM on July 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

As to why the student is taking the class; it's probably too late in the semester to drop and get a refund, or even a passing grade. Also, Speech is one of those core requirements like English 101 and Math 101.

To reiterate what everyone has said; go directly to the department chair and escalate as needed. This is blatant discrimination and must be stopped.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 1:59 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, if the student does make the speech without glasses, they should also tie their left hand behind their back, lest they be tempted to use the devil's limb. What other physical superstitions can be brought to bear here? Perhaps that's a good topic.
posted by rhizome at 2:46 PM on July 19, 2010

SecretAgentSockpuppet: "As to why the student is taking the class; it's probably too late in the semester to drop and get a refund, or even a passing grade. Also, Speech is one of those core requirements like English 101 and Math 101."

For me it was some class with a public speaking component. Acting did it. A few of the mass communications classes would have done it. I suffered through voice and diction because I didn't know the other things did it. There are options.
posted by theichibun at 7:31 PM on July 19, 2010

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