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August 01, 2010

August 2010: Professor Sue Titus Reid, J.D., Ph.D.

Academic with mobility impairments knows how to remove barriers and make it on her own.

Even before Dr. Sue Reid became disabled, she knew how to overcome adversity and make it on her own. Sue came from an impoverished background with a father who lost his business after being the victim of three felonies and a mother who had to leave the family to return to school. With no funds to attend school, Sue had to pay her way through three years of undergraduate studies and attained a full scholarship to the University of Missouri, where she received a Ph.D. in sociology. While teaching at Cornell College in Iowa, she entered the University of Iowa Law School—first as a part-time student while teaching full-time at Cornell and then as a full-time law student while teaching part-time, all the while with a nearly two hour commute. After graduating from law school, she was chair of the sociology department at Coe College and then professor of law at University of Washington. And this was before her life-changing automobile accidents.

In 1986, Sue was in two separate car accidents that aggravated a preexisting cervical degenerative condition. She was in another car accident in 1988 and received a cervical fusion. After her 1988 accident, Sue resigned from her position as professor and associate dean at the University of Tulsa College of Law on the recommendation of her neurosurgeon, who said she should not be sitting at a desk for long hours looking down at law books. She has since been diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis, for which she had surgery three years ago, and advanced arthritis, for which she had surgery last year. Even though Sue takes no pain medication for her impairments, she faces additional surgeries and currently requires accommodation in order to perform her work in academia. She has a special chair for her office and classroom and must be accommodated in course assignments, class size, and class schedules for her current position as Professor in the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University (FSU). Previously, she was accommodated by being given an administrative position as dean of FSU’s School of Criminology, a position with no course-load and no need to sit at a desk reading. Although Sue fully disclosed her disabilities to the FSU authorities at the time of her hiring, and was assured those would not be an issue, over the years the changes in personnel, her job assignments, and the required accommodations for her physical condition led to litigation and a court order.

After making her way and attaining two post-graduate degrees and several necessary work-place accommodations, Sue has established herself as an authority in the fields of criminology and criminal law. She has published 30 books on these topics, including a criminology book in its 13th edition and a criminal law book in its 8th edition. She derives much pleasure from her position at FSU, and always makes sure to take advantage of the teachable moments. “By teaching both inside and outside of a law school, I can tell that most of the students who are not in law school have a very minimal understanding of the intricacies of the law,” she said, “but as a professor with a law degree, I make sure that my curriculum and my publications handle the legal aspects of criminology and sociology—two subject areas that should never be mutually exclusive.” Sue’s publications—most of which are not used in law schools, but rather in graduate and undergraduate classes—have been praised by colleagues as properly and effectively bringing legal studies into the realm of sociology. When responding to those who say her work over-incorporates the law, Sue stated: “I am not being too legal, I am simply being accurate.”