As I wrote in the piece, quite clearly, the student approached another teacher and was disbelieved and given no leniency. This was a teacher who had a reputation for a lack of leniency, and whom I personally know had a zero-tolerance policy for absences, including a case where a student missed an class because of a sexual assault investigation.

From your response, I get the sense that you find my call for empathy and curiosity outrageous and offensive. I think perhaps you might be reading something into this essay that is not there. Did I say everyone should pass every class? That every excuse should be accepted without penalty? Did I say college educators should babysit adults? I did not. I said none of those things.

In academia we often mistake rigidity for rigor. Many educators have not been trained to understand, nor to empathize with, mental illness, chronic disability, or the struggles that are faced by students who must juggle school and childcare/eldercare/work responsibilities. We need to do better. And we need to start doing better by seeing calls for empathy as what they really are: they are not a threat to us. They do not make education worse. They aren’t coddling. They’re a baseline human decency and a clearly logical step for making school more accessible to these hard-working people who are facing challenges.

I hope you will reread and rethink my essay.

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