New York Professor Faces Latest Termination Petition Over Allegedly Falling Asleep During Anti-Racism Meeting

KDgxhmwQMzAuTJG-800x450-noPadFor many professors, a story out of New York may seem like an academic sequel to the 1982 horror film “Don’t Go To Sleep.” Students are seeking the termination of Marymount Manhattan Theater Arts Associate Professor Patricia Simon after she appeared to briefly fall asleep during an anti-racist meeting held on Zoom.  Simon denies the allegations but Marymount Manhattan student Caitlin Gagnon started a petition which features this picture and also accuses her of “ignoring … racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction.” The petition has roughly 2000 signatories. It is an ironic twist on the woke movement where literally not being awake is now cause to be terminated.Professor Simon insists that the picture was a false image due to her bifocals and how she changed her angle to rest her eyes:

“I was not asleep as is implied at any point during the meeting,” she said, adding, “the photo used was taken without permission when I was looking down or briefly resting my Zoom weary eyes with my head tilted back which I must do in order to see my computer screen through my trifocal progressive lenses. I listened with my ears and heart the entire meeting.”

It is certainly true to have such false light images.  We previously discussed how President Barack Obama was unfairly accused of inappropriate conduct through such false light publications.  Obama was accused of checking out a female staffer with the use of a single photo. However, the full record showed that Obama was moving his head to speak with another world leader at a photo op and that frame just caught him at a misleading angle as the staffer walked by.

However, even if true, why is a professor dozing off in a meeting now a matter for termination?  Faculty meetings are a well-known cure for insomnia even when you care deeply about the subject.  I have seen colleagues virtually cause self-concussions by sleep-induced head bobbing. Even Vice Presidents and United States senators have been accused of falling asleep in the middle of a meeting in the Oval Office.  A senator appeared to fall asleep during the presidential impeachment.  Indeed, during a judicial impeachment, I was the lead counsel arguing on the Senate floor.  My family came to the floor to watch my closing argument and my youngest, Madie, fell asleep in my wife’s arms.  A Capitol Police officer came over to say that “there is no sleeping on the Senate floor,” even an infant.  My wife looked over at a Senator who had his feet up on a desk, head back with his mouth open, and snoring so loud you could barely hear my closing.  The officer contemplated the scene for a second and responded “YOU can’t sleep on the Senate floor.”

The point is that Professor Simon denies the allegation but, even if true, the first response of these students is to seek yet another termination of a professor.  It is an example of why many academics feel that they are living in an increasingly intolerant and hostile environment.  Some faculty are afraid to speak on contemporary issues or even defend colleagues (or free speech) due to the ubiquitous petitions to fire faculty deemed insufficiently supported of Black Lives Matter or the protests.  Simon is not being accused of racist statements but a failure to be sufficiently active in fighting racism. As is often the case, the petition lacks specific incidents that are now deemed unnecessary in this environment:

“This action has only capitalized on a pattern of negligence and disrespect that Patricia Simon has exhibited over and over again in her time as an Associate Professor, and Coordinator of the BFA Musical Theater Program. Professor Simon has a history of ignoring instances of racism in the form of racial profiling within the program, and enabling the racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction.”

She is accused of being “known to use her power to intimidate and bully the students in her program who have made efforts to advocate for themselves or for their fellow peers.” That is unrelated to the alleged dozing depravity caught on Zoom and virtually impossible to refute even the absence of any specific incident.  Students later added that she is “fatphobic”and rejected her claim that “I listened with my ears and heart the entire meeting.”

I obviously come to this with the bias of a faculty member who is disturbed by what I see has the loss of tolerance and free speech on our campus. We have been discussing these stories of petitions for the terminations of faculty throughout the country.  I can understand why students are upset at the image of what they view as a professor falling asleep at meeting dealing with racism.  However, this comes off like a rule that you cannot be woke unless you are literally awake. It belittles rather than reenforces the importance of the underlying movement to bring attention to the problems of racism and reforms.

Academics cannot function in an environment where even dozing off in a meeting is evidence of racism.  We should all engage in this national debate while retaining a modicum of fairness and toleration. This includes not assuming that a statement is motivated by racism or an image (like this one) reflects some deep-seated hostility to reforms.  This could be a case of sleep deprivation or a case of sleep depravation (or not, as claimed, sleep at all).  It seems like the only response for many is compliance or termination to demands.  I recently reported good news that one such controversy at Creighton did not result in a demand for termination after a professor called supporting police evidence of white supremacy.  Conservative students did not start with a petition for his termination.  Yet, it is not clear if the university and other students would have taken such an approach if the content of his criticism was directed at protesters rather than police.

There is an alternative for these students then a petition for termination. You can ask for an apology or explanation.  On these other issues, you can raise specific complaints against the professor with the Administration.  These avenues allow for due process for all parties.



171 thoughts on “New York Professor Faces Latest Termination Petition Over Allegedly Falling Asleep During Anti-Racism Meeting”

  1. In my early 20’s, in the Air Force, one of the civilian techs had a pair of skinny readers worn low on his nose so that he either looked over them normally with head down in what seemed a condescending manner, or through them when reading. He gave the appearance of being very arch. In my early 40’s when I first needed readers I also got a pair of slim glasses and suddenly I “got” the physicality of that “arch” look. Now my head had to go very low to look over the glasses when talking to someone and I looked the same.
    Now, I have numerous “readers” of varying strengths. Sometimes hanging more than one from my collar. I also have a couple pair of the graduated-strength glasses where you see at a distance through the top of the lens and closely at the very, very, very bottom sliver of the lens. I have to lean way back, just as the professor is doing above, to see close objects or the screen clearly. The rest of the visual field tends to go blurry in various degrees, leading to eye fatigue. It is handy some times and other times switching glasses is a lot easier.
    Most young people (as I was) don’t have any problems focusing at very close to very far distances. And most (as with me) won’t really “get” it until they are old enough to need those lenses themselves. I had no concept, and it wasn’t fuzzy images which first clued me. My first indicator was a lack of ability to concentrate, because, as I later reasoned, my brain was devoting too much energy to just sorting out the very slight blur in front of me, which I didn’t notice fully until after that first pair of readers when suddenly everything closer became crisp again, and with it, my ability to concentrate.

  2. We can safely stand in line at Walmart, Target, grocery stores, Home Depot, the Post Office, etc and so we can definitely stand in line to Vote in November. No big deal. No safety issues. It is being addressed and handled. Just say NO to mail in voting that has no chain of custody and is ripe for voter fraud. Democrats intend to steal this election. We will not allow it to happen. We can and will stand in line to VOTE in November.

  3. When are we going to stop these little piss-ants from controlling our colleges and universities. As predicted, this nation is being destroyed from within!

    1. Answering your question, all it will take is to ask the petition-signers “What will yiou do if we tell you to piss off?”, and to stand ready to meet threats of violence (or actual violence) with an armed defense of free speech. It’s all it would ever have taken,but no one wants to admit that the nation’s leftist office-holders won’t suppress their own party’s violent fifth columns. Honest people worldwide will have to run out of patience with street theater performed so the Left never has to hold an election to get its way.

      1. Rudyard Kipling

        Macdonough’s Song
        “As easy as A B C”–A Diversity of Creatures”

        Whether the State can loose and bind
        In Heaven as well as on Earth:
        If it be wiser to kill mankind
        Before or after the birth–
        These are matters of high concern
        Where State-kept schoolmen are;
        But Holy State (we have lived to learn)
        Endeth in Holy War.

        Whether The People be led by The Lord,
        Or lured by the loudest throat:
        If it be quicker to die by the sword
        Or cheaper to die by vote–
        These are things we have dealt with once,
        (And they will not rise from their grave)
        For Holy People, however it runs,
        Endeth in wholly Slave.

        Whatsoever, for any cause,
        Seeketh to take or give
        Power above or beyond the Laws,
        Suffer it not to live!
        Holy State or Holy King–
        Or Holy People’s Will–
        Have no truck with the senseless thing.
        Order the guns and kill!
        Saying –after–me:–

        Once there was The People–Terror gave it birth;
        Once there was The People and it made a Hell of Earth
        Earth arose and crushed it. Listen, 0 ye slain!
        Once there was The People–it shall never be again!

  4. Just wondering, when is the lefts version of crystal night going to take place? Oh I’m sorry, it already has.

  5. Most meetings are conducted in a very boring, non engaging manner. During such, it would be a battle to keep my eyes open, even if the topic of discussion was impending nuclear doom. Low lighting, droning voices, lack of a hook or interest creating opener, and the subject matter is immaterial to the rate of somnolence.

    Entire industries have arose centered on maintaining interest and engagement of the audience during a meeting or presentation.

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