ASL Professor Lacks TLC

The Class that Taught Me to Fight Back

By: Justine Carucci

Studying a language is difficult enough—imagine the added strain of the professor hating you. In the spring of 2016, I was registered for my third level of Sign Language, fulfilling my major requirement. The course was hard and unfortunately, it did not come easy to me. I put the time and effort into the subject so my GPA wouldn’t suffer. This term my character would be tested along with my signing skills.

The class didn’t start on time. The professor was chronically 15 minutes late. That first day began with a speech about how tough she is and how we better not try to cross her. She spoke to the class like a group of convicts. It was strange. She spoke about her childhood, divulging inappropriate and unnecessary subject matter that didn’t benefit the course teachings whatsoever. I recall being appalled by what she was sharing and her anger as she did.

Soon into the semester, I realized she didn’t like me. I couldn’t fathom why she felt that way. I was a diligent student, always on time. I participated constantly and kept on top of my assignments. I also met with her during office hours to study.

She prides herself on being tough. I knew I had to stay quiet and accept being humiliated in class, which she often did in her subtle ways, or my grade would suffer. I recall one incident when she was assigning partners for our midterm videos. She called students by name and paired them with someone. When she got to me she said “UGH, Carucci,” clearly disgusted as she partnered me with someone. A friend I made in the class turned and looked at me with an, I know, I caught that-face.  

I already began documenting my struggles with this professor, as I urge any student to do when faced with a similar situation.

I was late to class exactly one time and since we were given the professor’s phone number, I texted her pictures of the traffic that stretched from Tottenville, passed the Victory exit on the highway. I decided to get off the highway and take the streets, already in a panic that I was late. The traffic was even heavier that route. Those pictures were also included in a text that apparently didn’t warrant a response.

Keeping unanswered texts and a copy of my grades was a smart way to document my side of this story if my professor decided to mess with my grade. Sure enough, the last day of the semester came and we each received a text with our grade. I calculated that I was ending with a B+. I received my text saying I earned a B+, immediately followed by a retraction—she was giving me a B. After what I endured, knowing I bit my tongue for months, I decided to fight the half-grade difference. I responded to her and messaged her superior, explaining the details of the last few months with my attached proof.

I was shocked to find my friend, the woman who witnessed this professor’s behavior, received a higher grade than me. This former CSI student admitted to me that she missed many homework assignments, missed more than the allowed absences and the final LCT evaluation that is mandated by the department. She was also constantly late to class without being reprimanded.

When I told my girlfriend about the grade situation, she gave me permission to mention the facts of her case to the professor to prove that she was grading me unfairly.  This only resulted in a FaceTime meeting between the professor and my friend, where my friend was told she had to complete the LCT at that moment because I was challenging her grade. Not only was that comment unprofessional—it was a lie.

Speaking via e-mail to the department head, I realized I would have to file an appeal. The professor was claiming I was “late and often on phone,” two claims that would be difficult for me to prove, but I knew contacting other students would clear my name.

I decided to go higher and speak to the Dean of Students, Christopher Giordano. I presented him with the text messages, grades and a written account by my friend from the class. He assured me this matter would be resolved in my favor.

The semester was over and I did very well in all my classes. The weather was warm and I was in a great place, mostly relieved to be out of that ASL class. My friend and I spoke and she assured me that I could always count on her to rehash this situation if needed, but I ultimately decided to let it go. I was mentally drained and I didn’t want to work to pursue the next step. I felt confident that I informed enough people in the department of the professor’s actions and if another student ever came forward, they would remember my complaints as well.

Sharing this story isn’t about revenge, rather awareness. We tend to put professors on a pedestal, sometimes forgetting that they can be unfair and unprofessional. It is vital that all students know this kind of behavior is more common than they’d think and documenting every step of the way is a must when they are faced with a situation like mine. Never be afraid to speak to the head of the department and have a paper trail for every interaction. The Dean of Students is in place to be an advocate for you, never shy away from that.

Remember: if a teacher tells you to “Make the world a better place,” sometimes that means reporting their misconduct.

Categories: Opinion

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18 replies »

  1. First of all, let me just say that CQ is a wonderful professor. Not only does she teach you everything you need to know about sign language but she also incorporates life stories in her lessons. She is professional but also has her funny side which makes the class fun. She does not like or dislike students, maybe if you got the feeling if she didn’t like you there is probably a reason that she calls you out. Maybe you are missing some facts about how you were in class. I can vouge for being in her first class that my skills improved drastically. I then took her class for the semesters after that. I can’t even fathom to say how untrue all of these things that are written about her are not correct. Not only does she grade fairly she also looks at the ASL skills of the students for finals and midterms. If there are skills lacking it will affect your grade. So before you go and bash a professor I suggest fixing some of your facts, that are completely untrue.

  2. So glad someone finally spoke up about this! I had this class with the author, and while I didn’t have nearly as horrible of an experience, I can definitely agree about the class being totally unprofessional. Thank you for documenting this and sharing your experience. CQ is a fantastic signer, but needs to teach in a way that is productive, instead of using the classroom to rant about her own life. Hopefully after this article is read, something will change about her teaching.

    Wow, Justine I read your article thinking it would be something I could relate to. This professor you’re talking about did indeed teach me how to “fight back.” Like you, I also took ASL as a pre-requisite. I figured it would be easier than Italian or Spanish. My plan was to just get my degree and get out of CSI. Walking into my first ASL class I was petrified. I had the SAME teacher as you. She pretended to be deaf and I instantly became uncomfortable and sank into my chair thinking about how I’m going to run away (running away from anything that made me uncomfortable was my way of dealing with things.) What am I supposed to do? How do I talk to a deaf person for an entire semester?? She called on me, instantly I thought. Of course she did. She began to speak and asked me why I was so uncomfortable. She eventually pulled out an answer from me. I was so uneasy thinking she was deaf and I told her that I didn’t know what to do or how to act. At this moment, I noticed something inside of me. I noticed that I would rather ignore or “run away” from a person because it’s different. This hit me hard because on the outside I looked like a put together, cheerful girl but on the inside I was falling apart. You see Justine, my family couldn’t accept that I was different so they ran away and told me it would be better if moved out and “found myself.”
    This teacher was the ONLY person who pushed me to THINK for myself!! She reminded me that life is not easy, but we can always chose to be strong. Her stories of “inappropriate and unnecessary subject matter that didn’t benefit the course” was the first thing that made me realize that this teacher is a REAL and relatable person. Her stories helped me understand that these terrible things, like rape, murder, depression, homelessness and domestic violence happen and it’s NOT my fault. You see Justine, I’m not sure about your life, but during the time I was taking her ASL class I was in a terrible relationship filled with domestic violence and a partner addicted to drugs and stealing. I was so depressed I didn’t want to live another day. Before I knew it, I was facing homelessness, and began working three jobs just to eat and have a place to live all while still in school. I was disconnected from my ENTIRE family simply for being gay. I was stuck in this situation because I had no friends, no family and nowhere to go. How could I leave my girlfriend she clearly didn’t love me, but I didn’t see that at the time and I had nowhere else to go. Also, if my family could disown me then who could ever love me?
    I was also like you in the respect that I was on top of my studies, even if that meant staying up all night and sleeping in my car so I had time to get to the campus Library to record my ASL videos before work. I refused to let my personal life ruin the chances of me getting a degree and being successful. I also felt this teacher had a dislike for me. I felt that no matter how hard I tried, she always wanted more from me. She would always call on me even though I always participated. I was never late and always did my assignments. My life began to crash right around the middle of the semester. My ex-girlfriend found my “get away money” of $3,200, and flipped out. She punch me in the mouth and kicked me down a flight of cement stairs fracturing my tailbone. I missed my midterm (which I practiced for 4 days straight) in ASL class because I was in the ER. I thought, this teacher would never accept this doctor’s note. So that was it, my mind was made up. I was dropping out. The only problem was that I needed her signature to drop the class. When I showed up she told me I had to do my midterm right then in front of the class. I told her I just needed her signature because I was dropping the class, but she wasn’t having it. She told me if I did my midterm, we could talk after class about dropping it.
    I got in front of the class with a fat lip and tears in my eyes and I completed my midterm. As soon as I finished I literally ran out of the class and threw up right in the garbage outside of the room. (true story, everyone in the class heard me.) This teacher came out, took a minute to comfort me and begged me to wait until class was over to talk with her. At that point I had nothing to lose and still needed her signature. Before I could get my words out I broke down hysterical crying. It was the most hopelessness I have ever felt in my whole life. I just begged her to sign the paper and let me go, but she refused. She spent over an hour letting me cry and listening to me tell her I had nothing to live for. But it was the first time I was able to tell someone all the things going on in my life. All those “pointless stories” of rape, abuse and addiction was my real life. The teacher who I thought hated me, took time out to sit with me and worked out a plan to get my life back on track. She refused to let me give up on myself and reminded me that we create our own strength. Without those stories, I would have left that class like I did in the past thinking this teacher has no idea what is going on in my life. She contacted me every day that week to make sure I was good. She asked to mentored me, and she worked with me for years helping me get out of that abusive relationship, get my life on track, find a place of my own, get out of debt, LOVE myself, get my DEGREE, deal with the loss of my mother, connect with my family and accept myself. She made sure I never spent a holiday alone again and to this day she reminds me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. She also encouraged me to be the change I want to see in the world. I left CSI and went into the ASL interpreters program where I graduated from and now work as an interpreter for those who are abused and addicted. There is not a doubt in my mind that SHE is the reason I achieved all of this and really, she is the reason I am still alive right now.
    I know this was a very LONG comment, however someone needed to rebut your false accusations and “inappropriate and unnecessary comments.” Sharing my one story is the least I could do to protect this teacher’s reputation from your nonsense. I’m 100% sure that many students can add their own life changing experiences and I hope they do. What you don’t understand is that this teacher has changed so many lives for the BETTER and continues to do so. She has pushed me to continue the cycle, and help those who need my help. I have worked with many students who feel they owe so much to her and in return she only wants us to think for ourselves, be kind and step out of our comfort zones. I can also guarantee that she didn’t “dislike you,” maybe that was your own insecurities, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that bashing someone and posting a disrespectful picture of someone to make them look bad because you were upset with the grade that YOU thought was expected to you because you showed up to class on time and did your assignments only makes me think of the kind of irresponsible, and privileged student and person you are. I truly hope that you read this and take something from it.

    To close on MY rant, I have to say SHAME ON YOU “THE BANNER CSI” for allowing this picture to be uploaded with this article.

    • While I am beyond glad that CQ was able to help better your life (and I do applaud your strength and her kindness towards you), that does not mean she was a good ASL professor.
      CQ can be a great person, but that does not excuse creating a classroom environment that is rude, unprofessional, and ultimately does not allow students to learn the material they are paying to learn.
      As someone who has also taken CQ’s class, I genuinely still believe that CQ should stick to interpreting.

      • You’re right she wasn’t a good ASL teacher, she was GREAT teacher. I left her class with the knowledge and skills to enter a 2 year interpreting program which requires a 2 day screening. So as someone who has taken CQ’s class, (three times to be exact) I genuinely feel she is one of the best professors at CSI. I hope that your ridiculous complaint about. It getting the grade you wanted and all the other “anonymous” comments do not discourage anyone from taking her class. I guarantee she will make you work hard but you will gain the tools and knowledge you need to move into the next level and also out in the real world. I’m happy to say I didn’t pay for my grade in her classes, but I worked my butt off for my grades and actually learned more about ASL and the deaf culture than I could have even hoped for.

  4. Disappointed in this comment. CQ is hands down the BEST professor I have ever had!!! This article is completely inaccurate and I’m urging you to take her class and prove this chick WRONG. She was one of the only teachers that actually TEACHED me in CSI. I still use the sign language in my class room. I took her for 2 years and never had a problem with her. I always felt I got the grade I worked for. Maybe the person writing this should have worked a bit harder to get that (+) they so desperately needed. lol Also surprised this “newspaper” would let someone talk so bad about a teacher. #Discredited! Know your facts people.

  5. Very well written Justine. I am so proud of you for posting this article. You spoke up about a professor that so many students feel pressured by. I had her class at 8am , I remember thinking maybe I will just drop out of college because I couldn’t deal with her another morning. She didn’t teach and gave public service announcements all semester. The PSA never went to the subject manner. Quite honeslty I’m paying money to take a course to pass to get a degree, not to learn about the horrors in the world. I can read a newspaper. This class was the only class in all my years of school I felt scared to ask a question. She use to always tell the class how tough she was. I hope this article helps open the eyes at the college. Just because you know a subject well doesn’t mean you should teach it.

  6. SO GLAD someone spoke up about this professor! Honestly surprised there aren’t more comments agreeing with the author. This profs asl classes were seriously the worst classes I ever took in college (I used to love sign language before her, too)

  7. CQ saved my life… I started my journey with her shortly after I buried my entire family! My mother, father and sister had all died within three years of each other! My sister was actually one of CQ’s students as well! So here I was a student in my early thirties walking into a classroom full of kids! I was broken and alone! My husband of 7 years had just been arrested and later sentenced to 7-14 years in prison yet I was determined to keep my family together AND FINISH MY DEGREE! Her story of survival reminded me that I too could do this! The personal stories used during her lectures have the same under lining theme “Where you have been does not have to determine where you are going!” I’m glade that YOU DIDNT NEED THOSE STORIES! But I did and I can promise you those stories SAVED A LIFE OR TWO each semester! I could go on for days about all the amazing things she has done! How she has allowed me to bring my daughter to class because I had no sitter and could not afford to miss the lecture. So before I move on I just want to say that CQ is an amazing teacher and a extraordinary person! She is the CUNY dream she defied the odds and came back to help us slay the monsters.

    Now as for this inappropriate artical using an inappropriate picture that is being taken completely out of contexts! I would know because I was there.. whoever approved this should be ashamed of themselves. To allow a student that holds a position of authority rant about their (+/-) grade is ridiculous! How are we as students to trust the banner as our school newspaper when you allow a student to advenge her own personal vendetta using your public form. This is not a fair depiction of how we the students of CSI feel about CQ and I will not allow you to attempt to distroy her life and or deminish her reputation. This should have been a personal blog post on the Internet some where! Not an artical posted by MY SCHOOL NEWSPAPER! If you wanted “justice” you should have continued with the process that the dean assured you would be resolved in your favor. I will be filing a formal complaint in the morning!

  8. Well written, honest article. It’s nice to see other comments here as well. I can agree that the picture is inappropriate, but other than that, I have to agree with the author. This is definitely a pretty accurate portrayal of one of the worst profs I ever had (As for those who did enjoy her, I can see why you liked her as a person, but that does not mean she taught well or in a way conductive to a college setting).
    Also, this is an opinion piece. The author could have written whatever she wanted in whatever tone she wanted, and it would still be allowed and approved because it is her opinion. That being said, the author did actually stick to the facts about her experience in a way that keeps this article a mature and solid piece.
    Good luck filing a ‘formal complaint’ about a student’s honest opinion in an online newspaper.

  9. Wish I had your bravery! I wanted to complain about this teacher so badly and never fought my own unfair grade…

  10. Well being that all you anonymous writers seem to agree that this artical is a fair depiction of the authors experience… I guess it would only be fair for the Banner to allow me to write a rebuttal piece being that we are in the business of exchangeing experiences! And it is not the written article that is the issue… the author never in fact says CQ’s name! It’s the picture paired with the authors work that taints the narrative! If the point of this piece is to empower students okay but why pair it with that picture I ask? Given the fact that my story in addition to others sheds light on the fact she is caring and compassionate! Might I also add that I know for a fact that she likes me and I still earned myself a C! So, if you wanted to be a true pioneer then you would have continued to “challenge” your grade appropriately and journaled that experience! Especially given the fact that the DEAN assured you an outcome in your favor! The greatest thing that came out of this artical is the fact that she shared with the student body that all one has to do is bring their own calculations of their grade to the DEANS ATTENTION and can be “assured” a POSTIVE outcome! Wish I would have know that 15 years ago! But honestly all this anonymity is disturbing! And the fact that she dropped the grade challenge only to write this article one year later using that picture screams the opposite of letting it go!

  11. Thank you for your contributions, CQ! Looks like you’re creating quite the buzz for The Banner! The ‘newspaper’ has to appreciate all this free publicity, I’d assume. Maybe you do care about the author after all since you’re so worried about her opinion. Helping students solve their problems outside of the classroom is commendable, but it doesn’t take away from the experience that this particular student had inside your classroom. You’re so focused on the photo and not at all worried about the fact that you made someone feel so uncomfortable and mistreated under your authority, that she risked receiving more bullying from you (and your favorite students) in order to share her story with her peers. PS the photo was taken on campus by a student, and as the picture clearly shows, with your consent.

    • While I do think the article may have looked better without the photo, Bridget is right about the photo being taken with CQ’s consent- she’s clearly looking at the camera and aware that the photo is being taken. Considering the sign at the table makes it look like she’s sitting at some kind of club fair, she shouldn’t have been flipping someone off or allowing that to be photographed. The picture alone highlights how unprofessional this woman is.

  12. All I can say is that the author of this article basically sounds like an immature individual. She basically whined that she got a B instead of a B+; that’s all I hear from this. Honesty, it’s called growing up and earning your grades rather than just pretending that you were that great of a student when you probably in reality were not. I know CQ probably wasn’t the worlds greatest professor but I highly doubt that getting her fired was really necessary!

    • If CQ got fired (which I have heard nothing about) I would assume it has far more to do with her being a professor who shows up half an hour late to her own classes and then complains about her personal issues than it does with a student writing an honest article.

  13. Bullshit article CQ is an amazing person and an amazing professor. The grade you got is the grade you earned and this article shouldn’t even exist.

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