On May 4, Peter Quint began our American Sign Language class with a personal anecdote regarding a past visit to Pakistan. During the visit, he was forced to sit down with whom he presumed to be members of a Middle Eastern terrorist group and smoke some marijuana as proof that he was not in Pakistan to be drug competition.
He continued to tell our class that the other visitors he was with were acting scared and uneasy, because they would be shot if they misbehaved or did something to anger the terrorists. He told us, however, that he felt he handled the situation in a mature manner because he was deaf, and he understood he would be shot if the terrorists felt threatened in any way. He felt he had the ability to understand and respect a foreign environment because he had lived in one his whole life: the hearing world.
Quint then connected this story to our classroom behavior as a metaphor for us to immerse ourselves in a deaf environment so as to be respectful to him and deaf culture as a whole.
The fact that Quint began his class that day with premeditated violent thoughts toward his students shows that he connected his classroom with a hostile environment. Near the end of the class, Quint was setting up a video for us to watch, and students began to talk and sign when he wanted us to be silent and just sign. This led Quint to refer back to his earlier metaphor and say, “Do you want me to pull out a gun and shoot you in the head?”
Many non-ASL students on campus feel like this incident is the reason why Quint was fired, but it was not. Quint was fired because of his poor class management skills and his crude, inappropriate examples that made students uncomfortable all year. It is clear that no student in our class felt legitimately physically threatened by Quint’s actions, but we were all uncomfortable at how quickly Quint made use of such a violent metaphor.
Some would like to make excuses for Quint’s statement by saying it was taken out of context and was simply a reference to the story about Pakistan that he shared almost an hour before. This should not be a reason to excuse his statement; there is no excuse, no matter how frustrated he had become. To those who were not in the room, he made no attempt to connect his violent comment to his story. His statement was made in an angry, uncontrolled and aggressive outburst that gave us all a small insight into how he felt about the class.
During the aftermath of the situation, two Department of Public Safety officers, Dean of Education Michael Bullis and Department Head of Special Education and Clinical Sciences Cynthia Anderson came into our classroom and debriefed us on the issue.
I was insulted by their lack of timeliness on the issue, because complaints about Quint had been given all year to other department heads such as Kathy Roberts, major director of the Communication Disorders and Sciences program in the College of Education.
The College of Education was extremely passive about taking care of this. Despite complaints all year, nothing was ever done, nor were students directed to the correct people to discuss issues. The only apology our class received from Quint was an email the night of the incident that said:
“I was acting out of frustration and helplessness after clearly establishing the expectation that the test item discussions were to be visually accessible to me. I acknowledge that what I said was wrong, and in the future when I become frustrated, I will work on taking a deep breath, a sip of tea and respond in a calm manner.”
Problems began to arise earlier this year when Quint wrongly accused some student-athletes of talking while he was teaching. Similar events like this transpired throughout the year, which made most of our class realize Quint was lacking a separation of emotion and education; there was always a blurry line between the two.
About one month ago, there was an emotional outburst by a student against another student in which derogatory names were used repeatedly. When another student finally communicated to Quint during class what was going on, he laughed and did not confront the issue besides sending a passive email reminding the students of the classroom code of conduct.
As someone who has taken ASL at another college with another deaf teacher, I feel like I can say that Quint’s deafness had nothing to do with his teaching abilities; it was just his insecurities and lack of control of the classroom that led to so many incidents.
Quint has a good heart and a wonderful love for ASL and deaf culture, but until he learns to separate his emotions from his work, he should not be a college-level ASL teacher. I found his termination to be appropriate, not just because of the incident on May 4 but because of his continually weak classroom management skills and inefficient use of class time.