A University of Georgia (UGA) professor who had clearly stated his policy of “No mask, no class” has resigned after a student refused to mask up properly.
The 88-year-old psychology professor, Irwin Bernstein, had come out of retirement to start teaching again. However, he has now stepped down from his position, arguing that his age and underlying medical conditions made him vulnerable to COVID-19.
While everyone in the 25-person class complied with Bernstein’s mask mandate on the first day, a student who hadn’t attended the first class turned up maskless on the second day. When a fellow student offered her a mask, she refused to cover her nose, claiming that she couldn’t breathe.
Despite repeated pleas from Bernstein, the student continued to ignore him. Aware that two of his absent students had tested positive for COVID-19, Bernstein then halted his seminar, announced that he was resigning, and left the class.
Bernstein formally retired 10 years ago but had been teaching part-time. Defending his stance, he explained in an email to the university newspaper that while he had risked his life in the air force to defend his country, he wouldn’t do so while teaching a class with an unmasked student during the pandemic.
He also said he was partly relieved to resign since the COVID situation had become a cause of concern for him.
Bernstein’s students are in shock at his sudden departure.
“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,” a student said.
Others are defending the professor’s reaction.
Psychology major Hannah Huff said, “Bernstein is there for you [the student]. Like, he came out of retirement to do something for us, but you just can’t take it out of the kindness of your heart to put a piece of fabric on properly.”
And she’s talking about some “blessing in disguise” crap like ma’am I’m just trying to graduate
— Hannah Banana (@hannahhuffn) August 24, 2021
All students affected by professor Bernstein’s resignation have been moved to “a new section of their courses,” UGA spokesperson Greg Trevor said.
Bernstein also wrote that his decision was necessitated after the head of the UGA psychology department refused to enforce a mask policy with students.
Like other schools in the University of Georgia system, UGA encourages students to get the vaccine and wear masks but believes they are “not required to be a part of campuses.”
“I am sorry that the pandemic has caused so much dissension. I personally do not agree that stimulating the economy is more important than people’s lives and am disappointed that some people feel that it is,” Bernstein said.