Cornell Responds After Professor Threatened To Fail Maskless Students

The professor said that one student had a "fairly prominent hooked nose."
11 October 2021, North Rhine-Westphalia, Münster: Students wear mouth-to-nose coverings while sitting close to each other during the lecture "BWL 1" in lecture hall H1 of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (WWU). For the first time since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, lectures in the winter semester 21/22 have started in presence under 3G conditions. Photo: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa (Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

Cornell University has responded after a professor at the Ivy League school last week threatened to fail two students he accused of not wearing masks in his classroom, even asking other students to help identify the pair.

Dr. Bruce Monger, a Cornell University professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, sent an email to students in his “Introductory Oceanography” class, asking them to help him identify the two offending fellow students.

“I wanted to ask you for your help in identifying two ocean students who were photographed with their masks off during the ocean class last Friday,” Monger wrote in the memo that surfaced online and was also provided to The Daily Wire by a Cornell student.

“They were sitting next to each other in the balcony’s front row of seating,” Monger wrote.

The professor then launched into detailed physical descriptions of both students, declaring that one had a “fairly prominent hooked nose,” a remark that the Cornell student who spoke to The Daily Wire indicated they found offensive.

“One student is a male with red hair and a fairly prominent hooked nose,” wrote Monger. “His hair was pretty long (just below the bottom of his ears) and is pretty thick and wavy. He was wearing a blue sweatshirt and was eating something at the time,” Monger wrote.

The professor offered a detailed description of the second student’s appearance as well.

“The other student is a male who was sitting to the left of the red head. He has short brown hair maybe 1 – 1/2 to 2 inches in length and small [sic] a nose. He wore a grey hoodie sweatshirt. He spent the whole lecture with his mask down around his chin,” Monger wrote.

Monger concluded by vowing to fail both students if he discovered their identities.

“If/when I find the identity of these two students, I will be failing them both for the semester as I promised I would in class last Wednesday,” the professor wrote.

Monger is a Senior Lecturer at Cornell.

Cornell addressed the controversy in a statement on Monday, saying the school requires faculty, staff, and students to wear a face mask in indoor settings. The school also requires all students to be vaccinated. As of Sunday, the on-campus population of Cornell is 97% vaccinated, according to the school.

Monger “regularly advised his students of the mask requirement, noting potential consequences for failing to comply,” Cornell said in its statement.

“Last week, Dr. Monger emailed the class seeking assistance identifying two unmasked students who had been photographed by concerned classmates,” Cornell acknowledged.

The university also responded to criticism of Monger’s physical descriptions of the students, saying the professor “described the students’ physical characteristics in ways that do not reflect Cornell values.”

“Dr. Monger has since acknowledged that his approach to dealing with unmasked students in class was not handled in an appropriate manner,” Cornell said.

In guidance on how to address “noncompliant” students, the dean’s office does not list failing a student as one of the allowed consequences for a student refusing to wear a face mask properly. Faculty are instructed to report “egregious or repetitive non-compliant behavior” through the school’s proper channels.

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