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Editor’s Note: This article contains mentions of violence or bias toward people with disabilities. Please take care while reading, and note the helpful resources at the end of this story.
A California professor was put on administrative leave after he was caught on camera yelling at a student who was hard of hearing during an online class.
On Feb. 19, TikTok user @salwaabakar posted a recording in which the professor, identified as Oxnard College teacher Michael Abram, is seen scolding the hard-of-hearing student for allegedly not paying attention in his class.
“Miss Salazar, I’ve been talking to you, Miss Salazar,” Abram, who teaches biology and is visibly frustrated, tells her.
When the student says she can only hear her professor just a little bit, Abram doesn’t back down and instead continues to press her about not responding to him.
“You can hear me a little bit?” he asks. “Why didn’t you answer all the times I spoke to you then? You know, thank you.”
The student then tries to interject, telling Abram that she is hard of hearing. Still, Abram carries on.
“Why don’t you talk sometime?” he tells her. “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. Okay? Maybe you can have your counselor join us. Do you hear me? Okay, wonderful. Do that.”
Another student tries to come to her classmate’s defense, explaining that the student at the center of attention is hard of hearing and that a translator needs time to communicate everything to her. Abram, however, doesn’t seem to buy the explanation.
“She’s not paying attention,” he says. “She’s not trying.”
The clip has since received more than 5 million views and a flood of criticism directed at Abram.
“Frustrates me that professors think they can treat students like this,” one person wrote. “It’s really humiliating and students will always remember these moments.”
“This is unprofessional,” another added. “I’ve dealt with teachers like that and all you gotta do is stand up for yourself and get your parents involved.”
“As a fellow teacher struggling with zoom classes, [this] is inexcusable,” a third commented. “You do not chastise your students in front of the rest of the class ever.”
In a follow-up TikTok, Abram is seen telling the same student to tell her counselor to contact him.
“Miss Salazar, have your counselor speak with me because you got too much distraction to even understand what’s going on,” he says.
The student, seemingly shaken at this point, tells the teacher that she can understand what is being said because her translator is next to her.
“Okay, just have them teach you, the whole class,” Abram says. “That makes sense to me. I don’t know. I don’t understand it, but I see you laughing and smiling and giggling with somebody else …”
When the student tells the professor she is simply in a good mood, Abram doesn’t appear to believe her.
“You shouldn’t be in a bad mood,” he says. “You should be paying attention to class.”
A third TikTok shows a continuation of the back-and-forth between Abram and the student, with Abram repeatedly telling the student that he is not “attacking” her and that he is just “significantly disappointed” in her.
According to ABC News, the Ventura Community College announced the same day of @salwaabakar’s recording (Feb. 19) that Abram, a tenured faculty member, had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
“We’re here to support our students in their academic journeys and their success,” Chancellor Greg Gillespie said. “We do not tolerate discriminatory, rude or bullying behavior.”
The outlet further notes that the student is, in fact, enrolled at Moorpark College and had been sitting in on the class at Oxnard. The college is now looking for Abram’s temporary replacement.
If you or someone you know needs support after experiencing abuse or neglect from a caregiver or intimate partner, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or use hotline’s online chat feature. You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741. Find a local therapist well-versed in disability identities through the Inclusive Therapists directory.
If you found this story insightful, read about this professor who was flustered after realizing what had happened during his two-hour lecture.
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