[MSA-talk] student personal disclosures (was ...color-blind students...)

Hanna Nekvasil hanna.nekvasil at stonybrook.edu
Thu Nov 2 11:27:34 EDT 2017

Having had over the years so many students who can't see the vivid colored
Becke lines, I know its not restricted to students with formal
color-blindness, so I make sure that seeing this is not a necessity in
grading rubrics. Also over the years I have not seen a pattern of lower
grades in mineralogy and petrology labs from students who after the course
say they are color-blind. They simply found other means of identification
of minerals.

Other personal disclosures are trickier to deal with when you believe that
the student could be helped if they would voluntarily out themselves. I
have over the years had students voluntarily reveal to me severe
psychiatric illnesses. What has evolved over time is to whom else they
reveal this. In the early days of my career most of these students did not
want to reveal such illness even to our disability accommodation group with
the fear of somehow being outed. In later years,  registering with our DSS
became more common and the students reported feeling really helped when a
flare-up made course- taking difficult. Now I am seeing more students
coming and talking to me about their psychiatric illnesses and I suggest
something very different for them. I suggest that if society is to
understand that mental illness does not take away an individual's desire to
have friends, study and have a career, they should consider revealing their
problems to some friends and see what happens. An increasing number are
actually doing this, and have reported to me unbelievable acts of kindness
from fellow students and the joy of feeling included socially
without "hiding". At this moment, the only psychiatric illness that my
students are afraid to out themselves to classmates about and have reported
to me feeling greatly burdened by this need for secrecy, is schizophrenia.
Maybe one day...

Hanna Nekvasil

On Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 4:17 PM, Mazdab, Frank K - (fmazdab) <
fmazdab at email.arizona.edu> wrote:

> Hi Matt,
> As your note was in response to what I wrote last week, let me comment.  I
> understand your reasoning, but I disagree with you.  This is an example of
> sensitivity training run amok.
> Simply put, most colorblind students have such minor color deficiency
> issues that they don’t even know that they’re colorblind.  In a
> color-intensive class like optical mineralogy (just as in art class or any
> other color-intensive class), there’s really no way students with color
> deficiency issues are not going to get inadvertently “outed”, perhaps even
> to themselves, at least to some degree.  I suppose inclusivity training
> class might suggest that we don’t discuss color at all in the optical
> mineralogy (or art class, for that matter), so as not to risk this
> devastating outcome. That’s clearly not an option in this case.  However,
> I’m not sure what options there are here, although I’m quite curious about
> what kind of special learning accommodation you offer students who
> privately speak to you about being colorblind, and how you ensure fairness
> to colorblind students who don’t speak to you (either because they opt not
> to mention it, or more likely because they’re unaware of it).
> I encourage students to ask their neighbors about any color questions they
> have in the same way I ask students to ask their neighbors about any
> subjective optical or physical property.  Relief is a great example… one
> student’s “high” relief is another’s “moderate” relief, so I’m fine with
> neighbors conferring about that as well.  So if one student sees yellow and
> another sees green (or “high” and “moderate” relief), each can leave the
> conversation either believing they’re correct, that the other student is
> maybe correct, or that maybe the answer is really yellow-green (or
> “moderate-high”). Even a student aware of their color vision deficiency
> need not necessarily “out” themselves in this situation; they’re just
> asking for an opinion, and with colorblindness so prevalent and because
> even with the blue filter everything under the microscope has a bit of an
> un-natural yellowish cast, only one’s most astute neighbors, supremely
> confident in their own color perception, might perhaps wonder about the
> deeper ramifications of a color inquiry.  And of course, no one is required
> to consult their neighbor; if a student is aware of and sensitive about
> their own color vision issues, they can of course come and see me privately
> about it… it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that I would
> *never* announce to a class, “Johnny is colorblind, so please help him
> with his colors”.
> Finally, your sexual orientation analogy doesn’t quite work here.  Of
> course sexual orientation is not an appropriate discussion topic for an
> optical mineralogy class (although making students aware of general
> non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies on the first day of class
> definitely is), but if you were running some inclusive swingers club
> somewhere, you might want to *encourage* (but of course, not force or
> require) guests to mention that particular personal topic to other guests
> so that they could perhaps have their wants accommodated.  So what is
> appropriate and not appropriate would seem to have some situational
> context.  And in contrast to sexual orientation, there’s no persecution or
> even stigma of individuals based on colorblindness (indeed, even “sinister"
> left-handed students have endured worse in the past than any colorblind
> students I’m aware of).
> Ultimately however, yes, you are correct that students need to feel
> comfortable in their learning environment, and I acknowledge that it’s
> possible a student could be sensitive about color vision issues, just as
> they might be sensitive about the thousands of other things young adults
> can be sensitive about (I remember).  But there is the subject at hand
> (petrography) to be learned as well… the close to 1 in 10 students who may
> sit silently frustrated that they can’t recognize the pink-green
> pleochroism of hypersthene (or alternatively, the other students with
> perfect color perception who may accidentally have the bright-field
> illumination knob inserted and are perplexed by the stray polarization
> colors they see in quartz and feldspar) should feel that in a non-exam
> situation it’s OK to ask their neighbor to help them interpret what they
> see, if they want to ask.  Of course, they’re certainly under no obligation
> to do so.
> Frank
> On 1 Nov 2017, at 07:06:28, Matt Kohn <mattkohn at boisestate.edu> wrote:
> OK, look - I’m not suggesting that the topic of sexual orientation is an
> appropriate topic for a mineralogy class.
> I’m simply pointing out that you would NEVER ask a student to reveal
> something so personal to another student.
> To be blunt: color blindness is a personal issue. Don’t encourage students
> to reveal it to others.
> Matt
> Begin forwarded message:
> From: Matt Kohn <mattkohn at boisestate.edu>
> Subject: Re: student personal disclosures (was ...color-blind students...)
> Date: November 1, 2017 at 7:41:10 AM MDT
> To: msa-talk at minlists.org
> In a non-exam situation, I always suggest to students with color vision
> issues to ask their neighbors, and so they don’t feel self-conscious about
> it, I make sure at the start of the semester to note that I’m color-blind
> While I understand the good intention here, after attending an inclusivity
> workshop, I strongly caution against this.
> It's one thing to reveal one’s own color blindness (an encouraging act),
> quite another to (implicitly) ask a student to reveal this information to
> another student.
> I do think it’s important make an announcement to the class, inviting them
> to speak to me privately if an individual has color blindness. That allows
> me to make learning accommodations. But it’s important not to put pressure
> on anyone, especially when you’re in a position of power over them.
> Look at it this way: suppose you’re bisexual, and you choose to admit that
> to a class. It’s quite another to suggest that one student to reveal that
> to another student.
> Best,
> Matt
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> ******************************************************
> Frank K. Mazdab
> analytical mineralogist
> Department of Geosciences
> 1040 E. 4th St., Gould-Simpson Bldg. (Bldg. 77)
> University of Arizona
> Tucson, AZ 85721
> fmazdab at email.arizona.edu
> office: rm 342 Gould-Simpson Bldg.
> www.rockptx.com
> ************************************************************
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*Hanna Nekvasil*
*Director of Undergraduate Studies*
*Professor of Geochemistry*
*Department of Geosciences*
*Stony Brook University*
*Stony Brook, NY 11794-2100*
*(631) 632-8201  FAX 631-632-8240 *
*Hanna.Nekvasil at stonybrook.edu <Hanna.Nekvasil at stonybrook.edu>*
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