Liberal professor dares university to fire him over forced in-class masks

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Posted By: Fielden Nolan (nolanf) on 09/14/2021
“It’s a big game of chicken”

- September 14, 2021

 University of Georgia liberal mathematics professor Joseph Fu is bucking the school’s policy of not requiring students to wear masks in the classroom, stating that he is definitely willing to be fired for forcing students to mask up.

“You’ve been warned you could face disciplinary action,” she told Fu. “Are you willing to be fired over this?”

“Certainly,” he emphatically replied basically daring the university to fire him over it. He called it a “responsibility” he had as a tenured professor. “I’m a person who’s quite privileged in this setting. I feel that, as a tenured professor, I have a responsibility to my institution, not simply to my bosses, to act in its interest.” He’s been a professor at the university for 36 years.

Fu went so far as to put his mask mandate into his class syllabus to make sure students were aware of the requirement that goes against the school’s policy. He claims he took the added step because many of his colleagues shared his sentiments on forcing students to wear masks in the classroom. The professor contends that instructors have seen a “very low rate of masking in their classes,” despite the university proclaiming that they had a “strong encouragement of masking.”

He commented that untenured professors feared they were in a “precarious position” if they forced students to mask up. They did not want to risk their careers over it.

Fu admitted that his colleagues, “think I’m a little bit crazy. But a lot of them are also afraid” about being on a campus that has no mask or vaccine mandates. “I see the fear in them every day.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fu provided masks for his students if they came to class without one giving them no choice but to wear a mask unless they wanted to leave his class.

“Based on my readings of the situation in our classroom, on campus, and in the community, I reserve the right to cancel all face to face meetings and conduct all class business over zoom,” Fu stated in a message to his students. “I understand that zoom is not ideal, and will not take this step lightly.”

Fu is hoping to “be a model” to other professors not just at his university but across the nation. Many contend that forcing students to wear masks or be vaccinated is unconstitutional and illegal. But Fu does not see it that way and does not address the constitutionality of such mandates.

He has been sharply critical of the university’s perceived “irresponsible failure to step up and risk their own massive paychecks” to ostensibly provide for a safe campus through mask mandates. Fu claimed, “they place our entire community, not just the university community, but the Athens community, in great jeopardy.”

The professor says that the school administration is hiding behind guidance from the state of Georgia. Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) has repeatedly taken a strong stance against vaccine and mask mandates in his state.

“It’s a big game of chicken,” he asserted. “They expect we’re going to back down eventually. I don’t know where it’s going, frankly. The hope is that we can embarrass them to the point that they’ll change their mind.”

“To me,” remarked Fu, “there comes a point where you have to stand for justice,” when laws become “immoral,” then “it is necessary to defy them.”

“I’m just one little guy, teaching a couple of little classes,” he posited. “I’m doing what I can.”

His remarks bear an insurrectionist tone against the university. Those who stand against vaccine and mask mandates are also taking a stand.

“I understand that my actions might, by the lights of the Board, ‘constitute grounds for disciplinary action.’ This brings me to my second main goal: to try to model as best I can the widely recognized legal imperative of civil disobedience in the face of unjust or inhumane laws,” Fu wrote at The Red & Black.

At Columbus State, which is a small public school with only 6,000 students in Columbus, Georgia, faculty and students demonstrated last week, brandishing signs that read “Mask it or casket” and “Don’t make CSU = COVID Spreader University.” They chanted slogans such as “Safer teaching! Safer learning! Move online when COVID’s burning!” and “Faces showing, cases growing!” according to USA Today. Fu supports the protesters and their messaging.

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