Shepherdsville, WI. School administrators at Clifford University are investigating student complaints regarding perceived preferential treatment of a blind student by professors. The student, Allison Nastoff, is a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a politics minor.
Typically people at the center of serious investigations like this decline our interview requests, but Nastoff says she has nothing to hide.
“An investigation isn’t necessary in all honesty,” Nastoff said, “the preferential treatment my peers speak of isn’t perceived. It’s real.”
Nastoff, who has been blind almost her entire life, said some preferential treatment has always been a part of life.
“I’ve always received a little bit of special treatment, simply because totally blind people like me are rare, and thus fascinating,” Nastoff said.
But even she has noticed a sharp increase in preferential treatment since she started college. It just so happened that the start of college coincided with the acquisition of her first guide dog, a yellow lab named Gilbert.
This issue was first brought to the attention of the administration by Thomas Truman, a student in Nastoff’s history class freshman year.
“I had to stay up all night finishing a paper and I was exhausted. But being the motivated student that I am, I dragged myself out of bed and made it to the 8am history class. But I inadvertently dozed off and my head slumped onto the desk,” Truman said.
According to Truman’s official complaint, Dr. Jefferson noticed and reprimanded him for being disrespectful, telling him he shouldn’t come to class if he is too tired to pay attention. But a couple days later when Gilbert snored loudly during a lecture on stagflation, Dr. Jefferson laughed and said affectionately, “I guess Gilbert isn’t interested in stagflation.”
“How is that fair?” Truman would like to know.
Since Truman first raised the issue, other students have started to come forward.
“I sat next to her in an International Relations course last year,” said Hillary Palin.
Palin recalled one assignment where they all had to write papers about whether or not the United States should send foreign aid to countries with corrupt dictators like Libya, and come up with our own ideas for how the United States could get aid to these impoverished countries without supporting corrupt dictators.
“The day papers were handed back, I overheard Dr. Biden say to her “95 percent! Nice job!” as he gave Gilbert an affectionate pat. At first, I was impressed that she scored so high and was going to congratulate her, but couldn’t help glancing over her shoulder and noticing a comment Dr. Biden wrote on her paper,” Palin said.
As Palin tells it, Nastoff proposed as one of her solutions to the issue that money should be sent to non-governmental organizations like the Peace Corps, to which Dr. Biden pointed out that the Peace Corps is part of the government.
“I had no idea it was possible to even get in to college not knowing that. Would such a demonstration of stupidity have been so easily forgiven if I had written the paper, being that I am not allowed to bring my dog to class? I doubt it,” Palin said.
Phillip Peepys is in an english class with Nastoff this semester.
“Class had just begun, I mean JUST begun, when Allison and Lynda Dillard started giggling. Now if my friends and I had been giggling amongst ourselves during class Dr. Webster would have asked us to leave for being disruptive,” Peepys said, “but when Dr. Webster found out they had been laughing because Gilbert was already snoring loudly, she laughed herself and stopped class, not to reprimand her but to rub Gilbert’s belly! Now I don’t care what anyone says. Laughing while the professor is giving a lecture, even over a cute dog is rude and the fact that Allison was able to get by with it is so unfair!”
Yet the administration has also gotten wind from a student who is in Nastoff’s senior capstone class this semester that this unfairness has gone beyond the campus boundaries as well.
To graduate, all students in the communication program are required to have 150 hours of internship experience and are expected to seek out and apply for their internship independently.
“I found an internship, but only after sending out over fifty applications and attending numerous interviews,” said Norah Rawls, “Allison used to be my best friend until I was chatting with her on the first day of school while waiting for Dr. Johari to start class and learned that she only sent out three applications, two of them resulting in interviews, both of these interviews resulting in internship offers!”
One of these offers, and the one Nastoff ended up taking was an internship with the governor’s office. Rawls acknowledges that Nastoff is smart and an excellent writer but “come on! No one gets such an impressive internship with such little effort these days. I personally feel these offers had more to do with Gilbert’s cuteness than Allison’s intelligence.”
We contacted the Dean of students who declined our request for an interview but sent a written statement.
“Our investigation is still ongoing, but at this point we do not intend to discipline these professors, partly because the same students who filed complaints later asked that they be recanted because they love Gilbert too.” We were able to confirm that this is true.
“I regretted filing that complaint as soon as I did it,” Truman said, “he’s a dog after all! He can get away with not paying attention to the professor.”
“If I had a choice of either playing with an adorable dog in my dorm room or doing the research that would have shown the Peace Corps is part of the government, I cannot say I wouldn’t have chosen to play with the dog, so I realized I shouldn’t fault her,” Palin said.
“Even professors admit lectures can get boring,” Peepys said, “it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be complaining about a momentary diversion from a lecture, a glimpse of pure innocence from a dog who can do what we all wish we could do without any consequences.”
“If I were a hiring coordinator, I suppose I would have hired someone who can bring a dog every day to lighten the mood of the office,” Rawls said.
“I do sincerely apologize for any bitter feelings Gilbert and I may have caused for my peers, especially regarding the prestigious internship. But the reality is that in a society where the unemployment rate for blind people is 70 percent, I’ll take any advantage I can get,” Nastoff said, “and frankly, given how much Gilbert has made life easier for me by charming professors and employers, I don’t understand why only five percent of blind people choose to have a guide dog.”
So while most of her peers are already fretting about how they will find a job after college, Nastoff is confident that Gilbert’s charm will land her any job and any promotion she wants. Her ultimate dream is to get a job that pays enough that she can spend two weeks a year in the Gilbert Islands.