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Cornell responds after prof threatens to fail students for not wearing face masks, describes one student as having 'hooked nose'

Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Cornell University professor came under fire after he singled out and threatened to fail two students for not wearing face masks.

What are the details?

Dr. Bruce Monger, a Cornell University senior lecturer, sent every student in his Introductory Oceanography class an email last week attempting to identify two students who did not wear face masks during a recent class.

Not only did Monger threatened the allegedly maskless students, but he oddly pointed out their noses, even describing one student as having a "prominent hooked nose," a known anti-Semitic trope.

The message read:

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. They were sitting next to each other in the balcony's front row of seating.

One student is a male with red hair and a fairly prominent hooked nose. 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. 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.

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

Cornell University mandates all people wear face masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. The school also requires all students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Oddly, one of the students that Monger singled out would have been permitted not to wear his face mask because, as the professor noted, the student was eating.

"Masks must be worn indoors at all times, unless in a private, non-shared space (e.g., office or dorm room), when alone in an office, or when eating," the university policy reads.

Monger's official title at Cornell is director of undergraduate studies for earth and atmospheric sciences.

How did the university respond?

Despite Monger's immediate threat to fail the students not aligning with Cornell's guidance on responding to students not complying with mask mandates, the university released a statement supportive of Monger.

The statement said that Monger, whose Introductory Oceanography class is one of the largest at Cornell, "regularly advised his students of the mask requirement, noting potential consequences for failing to comply."

"Last week, Dr. Monger emailed the class seeking assistance identifying two unmasked students who had been photographed by concerned classmates. In an email, Dr. Monger described the students' physical characteristics in ways that do not reflect Cornell values," the statement continued.

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

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