UPDATED: 4:00 p.m. ET
A white professor at a historically Black college who was seen on a viral video aggressively screaming in the face of a student has resigned just about 24 hours after the footage was widely shared on social media, according to a new report.
Now-former History, Political Science, Geography & Africana Studies professor Robert Pickard left his position at Tennessee State University’s College of Liberal Arts on Tuesday, according to local news outlet WSMV.
“I deeply regret what happened in class. I lost my temper and did something I should never have done,” Pickard said in a statement. “I have been under pressure lately, and I have been frustrated with students who pay attention to their cellphones and laptops, then wonder why they get low grades. But that does not excuse my behavior. I apologized to the students and offered my resignation. I am now retired, as I had planned anyway. Please respect my privacy, it is over now.”
A video posted on social media was well on its way to going infamously viral as viewers marveled at the footage that allegedly showed an HBCU professor who is white screaming vein-popping style directly in the face of a Black student who sat there doing nothing.
The brief clip entitled, “welcome to the HBCU experience,” is jarring if for no other reason than to see an apparent professor so upset that he felt the need to yell belligerently straight into this student’s face all because of what seems like a question about the student’s name. The footage was allegedly filmed at Tennessee State University.
When you add in the race factor – something that is unavoidable considering HBCUs are historically and intrinsically Black settings – and the fact that it took place in a classroom setting in front of other students — who, like the student being yelled at, were just sitting there watching the madness unfold – the video becomes all the more egregious.
The optics are damning regardless of setting, however, as the bottom line is that a white man is shown standing up over a Black student while shouting down in an educational setting that — if it really is an HBCU — is especially intended to be free of any intimidation factor, especially from white folks.
In the video, the professor is shown getting progressively closer to the student’s face with each anger-fueled word he screams with rage as he demands to know: “I SAID WHAT IS YOUR NAME?!!”
The student being questioned is shown leaning back in his chair to move as far away from the professor’s furious face as possible while still remaining seated.
“GET OUT!” the professor motioned with his arm toward the door. “YOU HAVE FAILED THIS COURSE, WHATEVER YOU’RE NAME IS!! OUT!! OUT!! OUT!!!!!”
And with that, the 13-second video clip ends just as abruptly as it had begun.
It was posted on Monday and appears to have originated on Tiktok courtesy of an account named “@myathagangsta” which identifies itself as being in Memphis, the city that is home to Tennessee State University. By early Tuesday morning, the video had more than 80,000 likes.
It had also been shared on Twitter, where a growing number of users with accounts that identified themselves as at least affiliated with Tennessee State University claimed to have identified the professor as Robert Pickard.
“HIS NAME IS- RICHARD PICKARD PROFESSOR AT Tsu! Spread this,” one account with “tsu” in its Twitter bio tweeted.
The account that encouraged people to “spread” the video later tweeted that the professor in the video is known for that type of behavior toward his students.
“This professor is at Tennessee State University and apparently talks to students like this all the time. Something needs to be done,” the account tweeted with the following hashtags: “#Repost #tsu #racism #heneedstobefired.”
One reply to that tweet that has thousands of retweets shot down the “racism” claim in the hashtag but agreed with everything else.
“He has a reputation among students for screaming and being verbally abusive so the school and faculty have to be well aware,” that account tweeted along with a link to Pickard’s page on the Rate My Professor website that allows students to effectively grade their instructors.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best (“awesome) and 1 being the worst (“awful”), out of 52 ratings, Pickard garnered a whopping 46 1s. None gave him a 5, one gave him a 4 (“great”), two gave him a 3 (“good”) and three gave him a 2 (“okay”).
A good number of the reviews were left on Tuesday with a date of Nov. 1, 2022.
The word “racist” was mentioned a good bit in the ratings and a few said Pickard has “anger issues.”
The prevailing consensus among the ratings on Pickard’s Rate My Professor page was that he is unprofessional, angry, rude and had a habit of yelling in students’ faces.
“Somebody tell this yt professor at Tennessee state that he’s not on a plantation anymore, he ain’t massa and he will be swung on talking crazy like that at an HBCU,” HBCUshaderoom — a Twitter account with more than 57,000 followers that says it’s not affiliated with any HBCU — wrote in a tweet.
While a white professor at an HBCU is far from uncommon, they’re still an exception to the proverbial rule, according to a book entitled, “A Primer on Minority Serving Institutions,” which is specifically about HBCUs.
The book found that HBCU faculties are 56% Black and 9.5% white. It’s the polar opposite at PWIs, where its professors are 68% white and 5% Black.
To be sure, whoever it is yelling and being yelled at in the video, it just plain wasn’t a good look, PWI or otherwise. But, because it is an HBCU – one of more than 100 historically Black colleges and universities that were founded in part because predominately white institutions wouldn’t admit Black students – the connotations of something like this happening at a Black school bordered on insulting, to put it mildly, if reactions on social media were any indication.
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