University Of Georgia Professor Not Dying To Die From Teaching Maskless A-Hole Students
My alma mater, the University of Georgia, resumed classes in August because it's not the early 1990s when I attended (we were on the quarter system and didn't start until late September). Despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases thanks to the Delta variant and unvaccinated dullards, UGA opened without a mask mandate for classrooms and other public spaces on campus. There was no COVID-19 vaccine mandate, either, even though the University requires documented proof of immunization against measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chicken pox), tetanus, and hepatitis B. At least students and faculty are safe from those preventable diseases.
The University released guidance early this month that simply “encouraged" students get vaccinated and wear facial coverings inside campus facilities. I recall how often I showed up for classes where attendance was “encouraged" and not required, but maybe today's college students are more responsible than my cohort with our REM records and flannel shirts.
Georgia's governor, who in a just world is Stacey Abrams but in our sad reality is Brian Kemp, banned vaccine mandates in state government, so no school board or public university can require vaccinations. This is specific to the curious culture war over a global pandemic. As I mentioned, the University already requires vaccination for multiple diseases, and a measles outbreak in 1990 resulted in mandatory vaccinations for all students and faculty under the age of 24. This was not a big deal and reasonable people accepted it as a reasonable public health measure. Anyone who didn't comply was kicked off campus— grades or paychecks withheld. Oh, but what about the freedom to choose a Typhoid Mary lifestyle!
Matthew Boedy, president of the Georgia chapter of the American Association of University Professors and a professor at the University of North Georgia, said, "While the (university system) can't mandate vaccines due to the governor's executive order that defies science and common sense, it can and should mandate masks."
Boedy points to state vaccine data that shows college-age Georgians are less likely to be vaccinated — 33.5% of 15 to 19-year-olds are fully vaccinated, and 36.9% of 20 to 24-year-olds are, compared with 40% for the state as a whole.
"I will be masking in class," Boedy said. "I will also offer a small lecture on the first day with the numbers above. I also will be teaching a class on misinformation this fall. This is also a pandemic of the misinformed."
Mandating masks in the classroom isn't just about protecting young students who already think they're invincible. It also ensures a safe working environment for teachers, some of whom are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
UGA student Dania Kalaji reported in The Red and Black, my old stomping grounds, that 88-year-old psychology professor Irwin Bernstein resigned in the middle of class because a student was too rude and insensitive to wear a mask. She showed up maskless for the second day of class (she'd missed the first — a classic move), and when Bernstein asked her to retrieve one, another student offered her a spare disposable mask. This could've been a meet cute, but instead she sort of half-assed the mask, refusing to wear it over her nose.
Bernstein asked the student to pull her mask up to wear it correctly, but she said she "couldn't breathe" and "had a really hard time breathing" with the cloth over her mouth and nose.
Written on the board at the front of the classroom was, "No mask, no class," according to fourth-year psychology major Hannah Huff.
I assume that the student wears shoes in class even if they hurt her feet but maybe I'm giving her too much credit. Bernstein didn't dismiss the student's whiny-ass complaints, but he did explain that he could quite literally die from COVID-19. He has underlying health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and advanced 88-year-old-ness. Bernstein would like to live to see 89 or even 90 but he'd first have to survive exposure to a spoiled brat.
The professor again asked the student to pull her up her mask, but she didn't respond because she lacks home training. Bernstein had already learned that two of his absent students had tested positive for COVID-19, so he declared himself officially too old for this shit.
"At that point I said that whereas I had risked my life to defend my country while in the Air Force, I was not willing to risk my life to teach a class with an unmasked student during this Pandemic," Bernstein said in an email to The Red & Black. "I then resigned my retiree-rehire position."
Huff said she sat at the front of the class on Tuesday in shock, anger and silence for a few minutes, like the rest of her peers, as she tried to comprehend what happened.
"Professor Bernstein said, 'That's it. I'm retired,' and we watched him pack all of his papers into his bag and walk out of the classroom," Huff said.
The mask scofflaw reportedly said Bernstein's resignation was a “blessing in disguise," but that's because she's an asshole who doesn't know how “blessings" work. Bernstein has taught at UGA since 1968, and he has to abruptly retire because someone from the post-9/11 generation can't respect him enough to wear a damn mask. She also denied her classmates, including senior Hannah Huff, a course that's required for graduation. Masks are disposable but professors are not.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."