University of Georgia psychology professor Irwin S. Bernstein — an 88-year-old, “retiree-rehire” who returned to teach two classes — suddenly re-retired during an Aug. 24 class, after a student refused to wear a mask, despite his explaining why it was critical for his health.
In keeping with the policy directives of Gov. Brian Kemp, the University System of Georgia mandates neither vaccination nor masks. USG instead “urges all students, faculty, staff and visitors to get vaccinated” and encourages everyone “to wear a mask or face covering while inside campus facilities.”
On the first day of the upper-level, 25-student class, “I had put a notice on the whiteboard — ‘No mask, no class’ — and afterwards, was told that I could not do that and took it down,” Bernstein, an expert in primate behavior, told the AJT by email.
“I had explained to the class that my age and co-morbidities would make COVID life-threatening for me,” because of such underlying conditions as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and age-related issues, Bernstein wrote. “All had agreed to cooperate on the first day. The student who refused was absent on the first day and when she came to class, I explained my situation. She had no mask, but another student gave her a spare. She started to put it on but said it was uncomfortable and removed it.”
That was the last straw for Bernstein, who already was concerned about the COVID-19 situation on campus. UGA’s student newspaper, The Red & Black, reported that Bernstein was aware that two students absent the first day of class had tested positive for COVID-19.
“At that point I said that whereas I had risked my life to defend my country while in the Air Force, I was not willing to risk my life to teach a class with an unmasked student during this pandemic,” he told the newspaper. “I then resigned my retiree-rehire position.”