Professor going mute. Anyone heard of such a thing? What happened?

Started by Alstromeria, August 07, 2023, 05:20:01 PM

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I am sorry this is happening to you. It is also a shame that the union rep has taken this position.

It seems that while teaching (which, yes, involves communication) is part of the essential job function, actual talking does not need to be a part of the job function. There are professors at my school who largely teach asynchronous online courses. As others have said, there are ways to use technology to communicate instead of talking.

Without knowing your school, I cannot recommend whom you should talk to (your chair? the dean? the ADA office?) but I agree you should talk to somebody.

Perhaps you have already done this, but I did a web search for mute professors. Once you get past the million articles about the one professor who talked for two hours without realizing Zoom was on mute, and the British professor who evidently did not talk until he was 11, I found the following article He writes:
QuoteI teach English, and midway through the spring 2013 semester, I lost my voice. Rather than cancelling my classes, I taught all my courses, from developmental English to Shakespeare, without saying a word. Though my voice had mostly returned by Tuesday evening, what I was observing compelled me to remain silent for the remainder of the week. My experience teaching without talking proved so beneficial to my students, so personally and professionally centering, and so impactful in terms of the intentionality of my classroom behavior that I now "lose my voice" at least once every semester.
Obviously there is a difference between losing one's voice for a few days and losing it for much longer. However, the article does indicate how the professor was able to adapt to the situation--and also how the students seemed willing to go along.


I am so sorry this is happening, and I agree with others that communication is an essential function of your job, speaking is not.
I also think text to speech is a wonderful option, and you should pursue that as a primary means of classroom communication. I have a student with selective mute-ism, they have a tablet that they can either show me or they can push a button to make it speak; it works wonderfully and I've noticed that other students accept it without comment.
If you uni is being less than helpful, you may consider learning ASL. The university can hire an interpreter, as they would for a professor who had been deaf their entire life. I have a colleague who is deaf and we mostly trade notes, but when he needs to communicate at a large faculty meeting, the uni hires a translator.


You might want to look into your state's vocational rehab program.  All states are required to have them, and most are excellent.  They can provide you with training and any required equipment.  It's no cost to your employer, so they'll probably be happy about it.

You may also want to reach out to a disability rights non-profit in your state.  Many of these excellent and can provide relevant legal advice.


I actually checked to see if you were my colleague; as she experienced the same thing.   She was able to make things work for a while, using the accommodations provided by campus.  However, she chose to retire this summer, saying the condition was just too taxing and isolating. 

I wish the best of luck.