Is­sue noth­ing new for hear­ing-im­paired stu­dents

Car­bon­ear man dropped MUN course in 2008 af­ter prof failed to use de­vice


When Tim Noel of Car­bon­ear heard about a Me­mo­rial Univer­sity stu­dent’s de­ci­sion to drop a class af­ter a pro­fes­sor re­fused to wear a de­vice that helps him lis­ten to lec­tures, he was im­me­di­ately sym­pa­thetic.

That’s be­cause seven years ago, he en­coun­tered a sim­i­lar dilemma while in his third year of stud­ies at the univer­sity.

“I can un­der­stand why he would be so up­set and why he would go to the Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion about it, be­cause if I had my time back, I would have done the same thing,” Noel told The Com­pass last week.

MUN stu­dent Wil­liam Sears re­cently went public about his at­tempts to con­vince history pro­fes­sor Ra­nee Pan­jabi to wear a wire­less mi­cro­phone that would trans­mit to his hear­ing aid. Pan­jabi re­fused, re­port­edly cit­ing her re­li­gious be­liefs.

The story has since at­tracted na­tional media at­ten­tion, and the univer­sity’s pres­i­dent Gary Kachanoski of­fered an apol­ogy to Sears. The stu­dent has filed a com­plaint with the province’s Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion.

“The fact Wil­liam Sears had the courage to come for­ward — I ad­mire him for that,” said Noel.

Prof wouldn’t wear de­vice

In 2008, Noel was en­rolled in a re­li­gious stud­ies course at the St. John’s cam­pus. Up till then, Noel en­coun­tered no is­sues with get­ting his pro­fes­sors to use the wire­less mi­cro­phone, though a cou­ple he would need to pe­ri­od­i­cally re­mind. The pro­fes­sor for this course, who no longer teaches at that cam­pus, agreed to wear the de­vice for the first class.

For the sec­ond class, the teacher told Noel to leave the mi­cro­phone on his desk and said he would put it on be­fore the lec­ture started. But that did not hap­pen.

“He’d just con­tinue on with his lec­ture, and ob­vi­ously I couldn’t hear him,” Noel said, not­ing the mi­cro­phone needs to be phys­i­cally worn in or­der for him to hear what’s be­ing said in a class­room en­vi­ron­ment.

Noel ap­proached the pro­fes­sor af­ter class and re­it­er­ated the im­por­tance of wear­ing the de­vice. But noth­ing changed with the next class, and Noel said the teacher never re­ally of­fered an ex­pla­na­tion for why he wouldn’t put it on.

“I think he just of­ten times for­got that it had to be worn,” said Noel.

Dropped the course

He went to the Blun­don Cen­tre, which serves stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and was pre­sented with two op­tions — Noel could drop the course or con­tinue to take it and re­mind his pro­fes­sor to use the mi­cro­phone. He chose the for­mer route.

See­ing oth­ers come for­ward with sim­i­lar sto­ries since Sears’ sit­u­a­tion first made news last week, Noel felt it was im­por­tant to add his voice to the mix. He be­lieves MUN could do more to ac­com­mo­date hear­ing-im­paired stu­dents.

“No teacher should deny a stu­dent from be­ing taught the sub- ject that they want to learn,” said Noel.

He later at­tended Col­lege of the North At­lantic and was im­pressed with how far the dis­abil­ity co-or­di­na­tor went to en­sure his needs were met in class.

Noel hopes Kachanoski takes the is­sue se­ri­ously and finds a way to make things right for Sears and other hear­ing-im­paired stu­dents at­tend­ing MUN.

A sim­i­lar in­ci­dent in­volv­ing Pan­jabi and a stu­dent re­port­edly hap­pened in 1996. She sub­se­quently ob­tained an agree­ment with MUN that ex­empts her from wear­ing wire­less de­vices. Last week, the Cana­dian Hard of Hear­ing As­so­ci­a­tion is­sued a news re­lease that said it has asked the univer­sity to re­view the le­gal­ity of such an agree­ment.

“For nearly 20 years, MUN has fos­tered an en­vi­ron­ment whereby Dr. Pan­jabi’s re­li­gious rights have trumped the dis­abil­ity rights of stu­dents with hear­ing loss. When bal­anc­ing com­pet­ing or con­flict­ing hu­man rights, re­spect­ful and cre­ative con­sid­er­a­tion of­ten re­sults in an eq­ui­table bal­anc­ing of these rights; MUN failed to un­der­take this con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Kachanoski con­firmed last week the univer­sity is re­view­ing that agree­ment.


Tim Noel of Car­bon­ear dropped a course at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity in 2008 af­ter his pro­fes­sor re­peat­edly failed to wear a de­vice that would en­able the hear­ing-im­paired stu­dent to lis­ten to lec­tures.

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