Professor holding a student's baby during his lecture is a worthy lesson on masculinity

Professor Daniel Fred of the University of Nevada carries a student’s baby while he gives a lecture. (Photo: Twitter/brianna_arvizo)
Professor Daniel Fred of the University of Nevada carries a student’s baby while he gives a lecture. (Photo: Twitter/brianna_arvizo)

Daniel Fred is a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, known for his introductory course in addiction treatment services. He’s popular throughout campus, and well loved in all of his reviews. But during a recent seminar, he strayed a bit from his regular course curriculum and wound up teaching an unplanned lesson about healthy masculinity.

In a series of photos tweeted out by one of the 161 students in his class, Fred is seen holding a baby in one arm, while using his classroom’s clicker in the other. Later, he switches to carrying the little girl in an infant carrier as he teaches. The photos are heartwarming, particularly since the child is not his own, but a student’s.

“Today in class our professor held somebody’s baby for them but got tired of holding her so he asked to wear the baby carrier,” Brianna Arvizo wrote in the sweet tweet.

In the comments that followed, it was immediately evident that people were struck by the professor’s decision to allow a child in class. And although many still couldn’t deny how adorable the moment was, Professor Fred tells Yahoo Lifestyle that for him, it was emblematic of his priorities.

“I will do whatever I can do to help any student who wants to succeed in my class,” Fred says. “Sometimes, that means rearranging my schedule to meet with them after tests, or when they miss assignments for various reasons, or to hold a baby for them so they can take notes and participate in class.”

For the student and mother of the baby, 5-month-old Ava, child care was difficult to find during class times — a scheduling inconvenience that Fred recognized would disadvantage his student, risk that she might fall behind. So to resolve the issue, he suggested that she bring her daughter to class and see how she behaved.

After a few lectures during which the student sat in the back without distracting the class, the professor noticed that she herself was distracted by having Ava on her lap. Fred says that she would leave class early or simply spend class time attempting to entertain the child. So he took it upon himself to take Ava and keep her entertained as he moved around the classroom.

“The whole class fell in love with the baby,” he explains, ensuring that his gesture not only helped Ava’s mother, but the entire class. “The last time the student brought her baby to our class, she was sitting in the second row and smiling. It was awesome to see that the student not only felt a part of the class, but the love that the rest of the class had for the baby.”

Fred is not the first professor to gain fame on social media by holding a student’s baby during class. In 2015, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Professor Sydney Engelberg did the same, as did associate Professor Darryn Willoughby, of Baylor University in Texas, a year later.

This time around, it’s Fred who’s found himself in the limelight, amid comments on how much it says about him and his unique teaching style.

“I honestly was shocked, as I read so many retweets and comments from former students talking about how much they loved my class or having me as a professor,” he admits. “It’s not something I see on a daily basis.”

Following the initial tweet of these photos, Fred took the opportunity to tell his followers what their reactions mean to him.

“Maybe we can start to talk about healthy masculinity?!” Fred tweeted, along with the photos of him and baby Ava. “It’s okay to be caring and nurturing!”

The message, he tells Yahoo Lifestyle, is in response to the idea of toxic masculinity, which he believes has not been discussed enough. Fred cites the case of boys who suppress their emotions by third grade and the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal as vital issues that should be confronted and challenged.

“We can normalize other emotions besides anger for males to express,” he says. “We can promote love and acceptance from all types of males. And stop ostracizing males who don’t fit into our modern tale of masculinity being defined by power, sex, and violence.”

In response to the photos, Fred explains that people have questioned his sexuality or even insinuated that he may be sleeping with students. Meanwhile, the father of three daughters simply wants to help a student succeed in whatever way he can — regardless of what others may think it has to do with his role as a professor, or as a man.

“My hope from what others could take away from this photo is that it shouldn’t be so shocking to see a male being caring and nurturing,” he says. “We can expect more from males in our country, to do more than just not sexually assault or harass females. We can expect males to treat women with respect and be OK redefining masculinity for this age.”

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