Georgia Professor Resigns From Job After One Student Ignored Face Mask Rule

Photo: (Photo : Damien MEYER / AFP)

An aging professor at the University of Georgia (UGA) has decided to resign his job right in front of his students after one of them ignored the face mask rule. Choosing his health over his career, Irwin Bernstein, 88, who teaches psychology as a retire-rehire professor, said that he did not feel comfortable teaching with an unmasked student.

Bernstein's abrupt resignation appeared on the university's paper, The Red & Black. According to the report, the professor had written a "no mask, no class" policy on the blackboard and explained to the students that he was vulnerable to COVID-19 as he suffers from hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

One student walked into class without a mask, and the professor asked her to take a spare face mask at the administration office. A classmate handed the unnamed student an extra face mask, but she refused to wear the protective covering properly.

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With her nose still exposed, the professor prodded the student to fix her mask. She told Bernstein that she had difficulty breathing with a face mask on. But as a dad with four asthmatic children, the professor didn't notice any distressing signs from her. After a few more pleas that were ignored, Bernstein announced in class that he was not going to risk his life, packed up his stuff, and then walked out.

Two COVID Positive Students

Before the incident, Bernstein was informed by the psychology department head that he could not impose a "no mask, no class" policy. However, after learning that he had two students down with the virus, he decided that his class of 25 must mask up.

Bernstein confirmed that he left his job in an email statement, saying that he was no longer willing to risk his life in this pandemic. He has done his part for his country as a former serviceman with the U.S. Air Force.

The professor told People that he has been receiving messages from both sides of the argument. While some agreed with his decision and showed their support, Bernstein also said he had received disturbing emails from students and colleagues who did not like his face mask rule.

UGA has moved the students from Bernstein's class to a new section, and while the school said it "strongly encourages" the students to wear a face mask or get vaccinated, there is still no universal face mask rule in the institution. Instead, Greg Trevor, the university's Associate Vice President for Marketing & Communications, said they would give students incentives to protect themselves.

No Plans to Work Anymore

Meanwhile, Bernstein said that he would spend the rest of his retirement staying at home, and he has no plans to find work. As a retiree, the elderly professor doesn't have any financial needs.

However, he said that he feels bad about how his final day at the university ended. Bernstein noted that COVID had made a public issue too political. He also expressed sadness that younger, healthy people do not realize that the elderly population with comorbidities is at great risk from this deadly virus.

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