In her comment on my earlier First Person ("Are extended time exams a reasonable accommodation?," Feb. 5), RoseMary Watkins of the Office of Disability Services and Compliance makes several points ("Extended time for tests is a reasonable accommodation," Feb. 19). I will address some of the more important ones.
1. I should have been more careful in my use of language: Everything I said about untimed exams also applies to exams in which some students are given additional time.
2. Ms. Watkins indicates that "Additionally, the institution has the latitude to deny the use of extended time when speed is central to the skills and knowledge being taught." This is news to me: When I asked for the right not to give additional time for exactly this reason, I was told that my request was against University policy.
3. Although Ms. Watkins denies that "grades convey to future employers any specific information," she later indicates that "grades provide invaluable information to employers." If they did not, students would not care about grades and would have no incentive to ask for additional time.
4. Ms. Watkins indicates that "in the employment setting an individual can use time management to successfully complete assignments." In places where I have worked (universities, private business, government), many tasks required full-time and even overtime work of employees. Time management would not have helped. Moreover, non-disabled workers also can use time management, so that those with time-related disabilities remain less productive.
5. Longer time is said to relieve "stress," which can "exacerbate the disabling condition." Another policy is "locating the exam away from distractions." But stress and distractions are part of any real-world job, and insulating a student from them conceals useful information about likely future real-world performance.
6. Ms. Watkins indicates that "the issue may not be the length of time to learn, but the time needed to convey what has been learned." But in a work setting, one is paid for the conveying of information. A worker who takes twice as long to write a report is half as productive.
7. Finally, Ms. Watkins indicates that "Academic freedom...does not provide justification to flagrantly disregard the disability anti-discrimination laws..." But I do not advocate disregarding the laws. Rather, I argue that the laws themselves are misguided and that universities should take a principled stand to try to change these laws for their own and society's interest. In enforcing the law, universities should do so in the knowledge that the laws are harmful, and those in charge of enforcement should try diligently to maximize faculty freedom within the law, rather than serving as advocates for a flawed policy.
Department of Economics
In your Emory Report article titled "Reed defends role of religion in the political arena" (Feb. 19), you cite Dr. Steven Tipton as a source for your information on the membership of the Christian Coalition. In the article, you repeated his assertion that the members of the Christian Coalition are an "extremely homogeneous" group and that "more than half are over 55." Dr. Reed responded to that statement by noting that the information cited refers only to financially contributing members of the Christian Coalition. He also noted that the largest group of people supporting the Christian Coalition are women in their 40s. Omitting Dr. Reed's response misrepresents the level of support for the Christian Coalition and, in my opinion, continues to marginalize their opinions and goals by characterizing them as those of uneducated older Americans. Were the same criteria applied when describing the Democratic party, and only those people who had financially contributed to the Democratic National Committee been included as people who support Democratic causes, I believe that a large portion of those who support the Democrats would be excluded. Someone reading such a characterization of the Democratic Party would be led to believe that support for the Democratic Party among the poor was relatively non-existent, while in fact it is probably quite large.
I suspect that the omission mentioned above was completely unintentional. However, as a conservative who has seen his views characterized as those of "angry white men," "Nazis" or "Christian extremists" (I am none of these), I am rapidly losing patience with what I view as an attempt to invalidate conservative views, not by rejecting their content, but by rejecting those who articulate them.
Graduate Student, Neuroscience Program