N.J. professor defends treatment of stutterer

Philip Garber Jr., a 16-year-old student at a New Jersey community college who stutters, said he was told not to speak in class.
WCBS-TV

RANDOLPH, N.J. - The New Jersey college professor who asked a stuttering student to pose his questions outside of class time said she has become a victim of "character assassination," and that she didn't mean to silence him.

Elizabeth Snyder told The New York Times she's received "the most hateful, vile, vicious e-mails" since the story came out earlier this week.

Snyder said she had asked Philip Garber Jr. - who suffers from a severe stutter - to pose his questions after class, in order to put him at ease and not to take up too much class time.

Snyder told the paper Garber, a 16-year-old taking courses at the County College of Morris, "seemed to want to answer every question" in Snyder's history class.

She also told the Times that Snyder misconstrued the class format - holding his hand up for 75 minutes while she lectured. She said she did not take questions from any students during her presentation, and interpreted Synder's hand-raising as unfamiliarity with the lecture format.

"In hindsight, I should have stopped my lecture and called on Philip because he had become so fixated on making a statement that it didn't seem to matter to him that he was interrupting my presentation," Snyder told the Times.

After a few classes, the paper reported, Snyder sent him an e-mail asking that he pose questions after class, "so we do not infringe on other students' time," and that he write answers to her questions rather than try to reply out loud.

Professor tells stuttering student not to speak

She disputed Garber's contention that she did call on other students that day, as well as his assertion that she later told him, "Your speaking is disruptive."

She said there was "never any intent to stop him from speaking."

Snyder said she now fears for her safety.

County College of Morris administrators said the history professor took the wrong approach and should have advised classmates to be patient.