MUN prof tells very different story, hard-of-hearing student says
Student William Sears says he was surprised to hear Ranee Panjabi's version of events
William Sears, a university student who said his professor refused to accommodate his hard-of-hearing needs during a Memorial University lecture, says her story reported in local media is "inconsistent" with his experience dealing with her.
"I was surprised by what she said, I mean it was very inconsistent with what she told me last Thursday [in class]," Sears told CBC News on Friday.
The third-year history student said he was shocked when, earlier this month, Ranee Panjabi refused to wear a small FM transmitter so that he could hear her lectures at the St. John's school.
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While Panjabi refused to speak with CBC, the professor told local broadcaster NTV News she's the victim of "egregious tabloid journalism."
"First, the Blunden Centre [for Students with Disabilities] did not apprise the student about the fact that in a discussion, video-oriented course the professor might not even say that much," she said.
According to Panjabi, Sears took a "my way or the highway attitude."
Panjabi said she offered suggestions of alternative technologies, but Sears "said it didn't suit him and off he went."
Panjabi added that she was open to accommodating Sears, despite having "a spiritual issue" concerning the use of the FM transmitter.
"I do have certain spiritual beliefs garnered over a lifetime of travel with my diplomat parents, intense study of many religious and spiritual sources," Panjabi said.
'She can't because of religious reasons'
But Sears said Panjabi's retelling of the incident differs from his own.
"I can honestly say that I have no recollection of her offering to give me a copy of this agreement or go through this agreement with me. She [told] me that she can't because of religious reasons," he said.
"She [said] there was an instance 20 years ago where an agreement was signed between her and the Blunden Centre that protects her refusal on religion reasons."
While Sears said the professor did offer to lay the device on a nearby table, he believes the suggestion was "unacceptable."
Sears's complaint brings to light a past instance in which Panjabi's refused to wear the technology.
In 1996, Panjabi told CBC News that wearing such a device was against her Hindu beliefs.
A human rights violation
The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDP) issued an open letter to the president and vice-chancellor of Memorial Thursday, stating that Panjabi is causing undue hardship on her students.
The CCDP said it consulted a Hindu scholar and professor from St. Olaf College in Minnesota and couldn't find any evidence to suggest that the technology conflicts with Panjabi's Hindu faith.
"The willingness to use such technology demonstrates a commitment to knowledge and its transmission as well as compassion.
"A teacher in the Hindu tradition would do everything possible to ensure that a student seeking knowledge has an equal opportunity to do so."
The centre also said Sears may have grounds for a human rights complaint against the professor, as well as Memorial University.
"Not only have his human rights been violated, but his academic experience has been damaged as a consequence," said the CCDP.
With files from Todd O'Brien