A California college professor has been put on administrative leave for blowing up on a hearing-impaired student throughout a Zoom class in a video that went viral.
Michael Abram, a tenured professor at Oxnard College, was caught on a video that suggests he was irritated as he tried to get the student to pay attention, according to KTLA.
“Ms. Salazar, I’ve been talking to you, Ms. Salazar,” the anatomy and physiology professor is heard saying in the footage.
“I can hear you a little bit,” the student replies.
“You can hear me a little bit? Why didn’t you answer all the time I spoke to you then?” Abram asks.
“I’m hard of hearing,” she retorts as he goes on talking.
“Why don’t we talk sometime? Why don’t you email me? We’ll set up a live Zoom and we’re gonna have some real communication at some point in time,” Abram says, seeming to be losing his patience.
“Maybe you can have your counselor join us,” he continues in his tirade.
Another student then tries to explain the situation to the frustrated teacher.
“Professor? She’s actually hard of hearing. So her translator goes in a little bit late. She can’t respond right away,” the student explains.
Abram then snaps back, “She’s not paying attention. She’s not trying. Are you her translator?”
“No, I’m not … but it’s slower on her end because she needs to get it translated and then it goes through her hearing aide,” the student responds.
“Ms. Salazar, have your counselor speak with me because you have too much distraction to even understand what’s going on,” Abram then demands.
The Ventura County Community College District, which is charged with supervising Oxnard, says it was then inundated with hundreds of calls and emails from outraged people bringing their attention to the disconcerting video.
“A lot of the people are understandably angry, upset, and saddened by what they saw in the video,” district Chancellor Greg Gillespie said to KTLA.
“We’re here to support students,” Gillespie insisted in the briefing. “We do not tolerate discriminatory, rude or bullying behavior.”
The district held a media Zoom call of its own on Friday and Abram has since been given time to cool off on paid leave until a full investigation can be conducted by the district officials. The investigation could take as long as three months to complete, district officials said.
Oxnard College President Luis Sanchez said that what he saw on the video was “heartbreaking.”
“No matter what led up to that interaction, there is no justification… It horrified me,” he emphasized.
District officials have confirmed they are making every effort to reach out to the student for counseling or support, and other students who were in the class are expected to be interviewed during the investigation, the news outlet reported.
Faculty are equipped to work with a diverse student body, the California school officials stressed, before acknowledging that the footage shows more work needs to be done with some of their staff.
Despite that the school seems to have the situation well in hand, people on social media, particularly Twitter, hit the roof with outrage and demanded the professor pay dearly for what may have been an honest mistake.
Some users have gone so far as to dox the professor’s personal information, including contact information that Twitter has yet to remove, which in the past has typically led to targeted harassment campaigns.
“Please know that we will not stop until Prof. Michael Abram is removed from his position. He was abusive, discriminatory, ablest, and hateful towards this student. I’m sure you wouldn’t want that kind of behaviour as your reputation,” one user promised.
Others even called for the professor to be forced to forfeit his radiology license, saying:
“If this is how Michael Abram treats hard of hearing/deaf students when they need a translator, I’d be appalled at how he treats disabled patients as a CA licensed radiologist. YOU SHOULD REVIEW HIS MISCONDUCT AND RETHINK GIVING THIS MAN A LICENSE TO PRACTICE.”