The footage, which quickly went viral, shows the professor vehemently shouting at the student, demanding to know their name, and ultimately instructing them to leave the classroom. The incident has ignited a broader discussion about racial dynamics and appropriate conduct within educational environments, particularly within historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Shouting at the Student
The footage, which quickly went viral, shows the professor vehemently shouting at the student, demanding to know their name, and ultimately instructing them to leave the classroom. The incident has ignited a broader discussion about racial dynamics and appropriate conduct within educational environments, particularly within historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Supposed to be a Safe Space
The video, titled “Welcome to the HBCU experience,” captures a disturbing scene that is particularly unsettling due to the racial dynamics at play. HBCUs have historically been established to provide educational opportunities for black students who were denied admission to predominantly white institutions.
These institutions are meant to create a safe and inclusive space for black students, free from any intimidation or discrimination, especially from white individuals.
In the video, the professor is seen progressively moving closer to the student, his face filled with rage as he repeatedly demands, “I SAID WHAT IS YOUR NAME?!” Meanwhile, the student leans back in their chair, attempting to create distance from the professor’s aggressive confrontation while remaining seated.
“GET OUT!” the professor motioned with his arm toward the door. “YOU HAVE FAILED THIS COURSE, WHATEVER YOUR NAME IS!! OUT!! OUT!! OUT!!!!!”
The clip abruptly ends after the professor motions for the student to leave, declaring that they have failed the course. The video, originally posted on TikTok, quickly gained traction on other social media platforms, amassing over 120,000 likes and numerous shares.
Call for Action
As the video circulated, Twitter users claiming affiliation with Tennessee State University began identifying the professor as Robert Pickard. Some accounts urged others to spread the video and expressed their dissatisfaction with Pickard’s behavior, calling for appropriate actions to be taken against him.
According to subsequent tweets, this incident was not an isolated event involving Pickard. Numerous students alleged that the professor had a reputation for screaming and verbally abusing students, suggesting that the university administration and faculty may have been aware of his behavior.
These claims were further supported by multiple negative reviews on the Rate My Professor website, where students criticized Pickard’s professionalism, anger issues, and tendency to yell in students’ faces.
Concern About Power Dynamics
The outrage expressed on social media emphasized the need for accountability and addressed the concerning power dynamics involved when a white professor displays such aggression towards a Black student within an HBCU setting.
While white professors at HBCUs are not unheard of, they remain the exception rather than the norm. In contrast, predominantly white institutions (PWIs) typically have a majority of white faculty members. A book titled “A Primer on Minority Serving Institutions” revealed that HBCU faculties are 56% black and 9.5% white, while at PWIs, professors are 68% white and 5% black.
The incident has raised broader concerns about the treatment of black students, the significance of racial dynamics in educational spaces, and the responsibility of institutions to address incidents of racism and unprofessional conduct among faculty members.
Following the public outcry, Robert Pickard resigned from his position as a professor at Tennessee State University’s College of Liberal Arts within 24 hours of the video’s widespread circulation.
In a statement, Pickard expressed deep regret for his actions, acknowledging that he lost his temper and behaved inappropriately. He also revealed that he had planned to retire soon and requested privacy following the incident.
This incident serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by marginalized communities within educational institutions and the need for continuous efforts to create inclusive and respectful learning environments for all students, regardless of their race or background.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Mix and Match Studio. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.