According to Cornwell’s complaint, his problems began in February 2011 when he engaged in an angry exchange with maintenance staff after they repeatedly failed to configure a classroom properly for his seminar course....After taking an anger-management course, he returned to teaching in the fall semester. He asked for but was refused the assistance of what the linked article calls "a mental health professional to facilitate his communications with colleagues and superiors."
I'm trying to understand this concept and not reading the complaint, but this seems to say that just as the ADA might require that the employer hire a signer for a deaf employee, it might need — at least some of the time — to appoint someone to serve as an intermediary for an employee who suffers from a mental disorder that impairs communication. This seems to be a case of a professor who's done his work, presumably well enough, for a quarter century, who is now, apparently, going through a rough period in which he's had angry outbursts.
Problems surfaced again in October, when Cornwell lost his temper in class and chastised two students for being unprepared, according to court records. An associate dean ordered Cornwell to apologize to the class; another administrator wrote out the wording. Cornwell read the written apology in class and then issued his own apology.We don't have the school's version of the story, so it's hard to talk about the merits of the case itself, which might trigger your aversion to litigiousness, and I suspect tenured professors are not the most sympathetic characters (especially if they yell at custodians and students), but how do you think a school should handle the case of a professor with a disorder that impairs his ability to read social situations who gets into unpleasant, emotional scenes with students and staff?
Here's a NYT article from last September titled "Quandary of Hidden Disabilities: Conceal or Reveal?," which discusses disabilities like hearing loss and autism. How should a job-seeker with Asperger’s syndrome respond to the statement on the application "Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out how I am supposed to behave around others"? Consider the employee with Asperger’s who "was working for a community college as an accountant and was having a very difficult time interacting with others because of his poor social skills and boundaries. He was lonely and wanted social time with others, and got in trouble for asking too many questions."
People with mental illness have a particularly hard time finding and keeping jobs, in part because of isolated cases of violence that lead to negative — and out of proportion — publicity about mental illness.... For this reason, employees rarely disclose a psychiatric disability, either before or after they are hired. This leaves them open to misunderstanding.Some of the misunderstanding comes from the hiding of disabilities that can be hidden. We all have imperfect ability to read each other socially, including our failure to see the mental disorders of the people we communicate with, and we may build up antagonism to someone who'd have our empathy if the disorder where openly visible. Someone who himself seems to lack empathy for others and who erupts angrily at times is unlikely to stimulate our empathy. But there are a lot of people out there with these problems, and we must be encountering them frequently without noticing, other than perhaps to feel disinclined to figure out what their problem is.
It's our problem too, and one of the ways our problem manifests itself is when a lawsuit like Professor Cornwell's is filed.