York University professor slammed for mocking student in war-torn Myanmar
Administrators at Toronto's York University say they have initiated "appropriate actions" against a mathematics professor who, as widely-circulating leaked emails show, callously blew off an exam deferral request from a student in Myanmar, where a coup has resulted in sweeping internet blackouts and military violence.
The student in question, whose name was withheld when they posted screenshots of the controversial email exchange to Reddit on Wednesday night, had reached out to professor Emanoil Theodorescu to ask for accommodations on a mid-term exam.
It was a simple and legitimate request, given that the student is based in Myanmar (also called Burma), where military generals have been sporadically cutting off internet access since overthrowing the civilian government in February.
"I have just learned that from tomorrow all cellular data, wifi and internet services will be cut off indefinitely," wrote the statistics student in their email to Theodorescu.
"Therefore, there will be a total communications blackout. May I please get a deferral for the midterm test 2, or could the weight of that be added to my final, since I won't be able to give it?"
Have you ever been so York'd that you've been told to take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for missing an exam because the military junta in your country (Myanmar) was shutting down the internet?— National Meme Board of Canada (@NMBCanada) March 18, 2021
/cc @yorkuniversity pic.twitter.com/C8oCIfgyaP
Whether unaware of the political unrest and mass protests or simply too jaded to care, Theodorescu was curt in his reply.
"There is no deferral. It's transferred to the final exam. Last chance, bad sign," he wrote, adding: "Even the Internet came down with CoViD19?"
The student hadn't even mentioned COVID-19 in their email, nor had they travelled to Myanmar as a result of the health crisis: York regularly accepts graduate students from the Southeast Asian country.
"No professor. The internet did not come down with COVID-19. There was a military coup where I am living and almost 200 protestors have been shot up until now. The regime has decided to shut off all communications by tomorrow," replied the student. "Does this mean that now my final exam will be worth 60% of my grade?"
"Something like that," said Theodorescu in a three-word emailed reply, to which the student thanked their prof and asked for confirmation that they shouldn't be worried about missing the test.
"Of course you should. The next time you miss something, it's over," replied Theodorescu, before launching into a weird and unnecessary rant about political protests.
"By the way, your remarks (both related to this course and to your mom country) made me wonder how you understand reality," wrote the prof to his student. "People don't get shot for just protesting, but for a lot deeper reasons. And with loading everything on the final exam — it's going to be tough to pass the course - for lack of practice if nothing else."
This is absolutely unacceptable for a #YorkU professor- millions of people are affected by a military coup in Myanmar- yet people still think they can berate int'l students living there?https://t.co/pzkxLzwq1F— Joshua Mumble (@JoshuaMumble) March 18, 2021
The emails are now being shared widely online as people react with shock and disgust to how Theodorescu handled the student's request.
"The student sought accommodations due to the tension, violence, and lack of internet in Myanmar, and was insulted and refused assistance by professor Emanoil Theodorescu," said one alumnus to blogTO of why people are upset.
"This treatment of students CANNOT be condoned or accepted by an institution that supposedly stands for diversity and respect of others, particularly in the context of the increasing racism directed to people of colour in North America. This professor needs to be held accountable."
"It exemplifies the sheer egotism of many professors at major Ontario/Toronto Universities, as this behaviour is rampant, normalized, and cruel," said another.
York has responded to the controversy, though it's not yet clear whether Theodorescu will continue teaching at the university.
York is committed to upholding & promoting the values of respect, equity, diversity, & inclusion across our campuses. There was a recent communication between an instructor & a student that does not reflect those values. Full response: https://t.co/aj67BN4ARd— York University News (@YorkUnews) March 19, 2021
Calling the situation a "recent, serious student accommodation matter," York University spokesperson Barbara Joy said in a statement that the school is "committed to upholding and promoting the values of respect, equity, diversity, and inclusion across our campuses and in our communication."
"There was a recent communication between a Department of Mathematics and Statistics instructor and a student that does not reflect those values," Joy continued.
"While employment matters are confidential, we can confirm that appropriate actions were immediately initiated upon learning of the exchange."
Joy confirmed that senior staff from the faculty had been able to contact the student, express support for their difficult circumstance, and make necessary accommodations for them to complete the course.
Sign this petition to sack this insensitive professor,Emanoil Theodorescu.— ChiLLY (@itschillymusic) March 19, 2021
Absolute clown level replies,lack of empathy,and then murder victim blaming ewwhttps://t.co/Cj8oznNZeH
Theodorescu has yet to respond to a request for comment, but there's plenty of evidence available online to show that this isn't his first conflict with a student.
Several people on Reddit have pointed to the mathematician's dismal reputation as a professor. With a score of just 1.7 on the popular website ratemyprofessors.com, Theodorescu has dozens of negative comments from students all across the web.
"This guy will blame all his problems onto his students. He forgot to record? Student's fault. Not enough time on quiz? You're not smart enough. Highly don't recommend," wrote one former student on RMP in September.
"Gets kicked out of his own meeting and complains how people are late to the class when he has a waiting room for a class full of 80 people," wrote another in a Reddit thread from October titled Emanoil Theodorescu: What's his problem?.
"He is sarcastic to the point where he is actually just plain rude."
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