College professor quits during class after student refuses to put mask over nose

Irwin Bernstein (University of Georgia)

Karina Mazhukhina

The Charlotte Observer

An 88-year-old University of Georgia psychology professor quit in the middle of class after a student refused to wear her mask properly.

Despite Irwin Bernstein’s “no mask, no class” policy, a student showed up on the second day of school without one and was asked to get a mask from the advising office, according to the university’s newspaper The Red and Black.

The school does not require face masks inside campus facilities, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The university system in Georgia “does not allow its institutions to enact mask or vaccine mandates,” a spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed. However, vaccines and face coverings “are strongly encouraged.”

Bernstein was told that he violated campus rules and if he repeated the phrase “no mask, no class” he would get fired, according to Athens Banner-Herald.

Bernstein said he had been offered a larger classroom, but he said it wasn’t about social distancing, it was being in a small space with unmasked students, the news outlet reported.

The professor said he knew of two students who had tested positive for the coronavirus and were absent on the first day of school, so he implemented his own mandate, The Red and Black reported.

Bernstein told the student who refused to put the mask over her nose that he had Type 2 diabetes and age-related health issues that made him at risk of dying from COVID-19, the student newspaper said.

A classmate then gave her a mask, but she refused to wear it, saying she “couldn’t breathe” and “had a really hard time breathing,” the newspaper reported.

About 15 minutes into the lecture, Bernstein asked the student again to pull up her mask , but she did not respond, the student newspaper reported. He then walked out.

“I told the class that I felt teaching a class with unmasked people would be putting my life at risk and that I was therefore retiring once again,” Bernstein told Athens Banner-Herald. “I notified my department head and I think that we both understand each other.”

Although Bernstein retired in 2011, he continued to teach part-time for many years until the University Of Georgia asked him to teach two classes in the school’s psychology departments, according to Athens Banner-Herald.

“When I was in the Air Force, I was willing to risk my life for my country. I am not willing to risk it by spending time in an enclosed space with unmasked people that were not required to be vaccinated,” Bernstein told the news outlet.

Bernstein also said that he doesn’t think the university will be allowed to mandate vaccinations or masks, so it’s soon to tell if he’d consider coming back — although he’s not opposed to the idea, the news outlet reported.

McClatchy News reached out to the University of Georgia for comment on Monday but hasn’t received a response.

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