On Monday morning, Columbia University professor Emlyn Hughes was filmed by students in his "Frontiers of Science" class stripping to his briefs in front of the class, as Lil Wayne and video of images of 9/11, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin played in the background.
Note: Video of the incident above contains profanity.
The Columbia Spectator explains what went down:
As students filed into the lecture hall, all of the lights were off, except for two spotlights on stage where Hughes was sitting. With Lil Wayne's "Drop It Like It's Hot" playing in the background, Hughes stripped down to his underwear, then proceeded to change into a black T-shirt and pants. Afterwards, he sat down on the chair, hugging his knees in a fetal position.
Then, as a jumbled video that included footage of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers on 9/11 continued to play on the screen, two figures dressed in black came on stage with long swords. One of them proceeded to chop a stuffed animal in half on a stool.
Students can be heard in the video shouting "What is happening?" as the lecture hall audibly reacts in dismay as Hughes removes his clothing.
After the music stopped, Hughes told the students, "In order to learn quantum mechanics, you have to strip to your raw, erase all the garbage from your brain, and start over again."
In a 2010 interview with Columbia College Today, Hughes explained that "[t]he biggest challenge in teaching a large introductory physics course at Columbia is reaching students with enormously varied backgrounds, especially in terms of their training in math. A typical exam score in my class is 65 percent, and the range of grades extends from 15 percent to 95 percent. As a teacher, I aim for the middle."
Judging from the reaction of the students in the video, it's more likely the five-minute presentation missed the middle and went straight over the top. The Atlantic Wire speculated that it might've been a deliberate ploy to confuse students. It seems to have worked.
"He didn't explain it or provide a context, and that's why it was offensive to me and to other people,” freshman Maura Barry-Garland told the Spectator.
Hughes did not immediately return a request for comment from The Huffington Post, and did not comment to the Spectator or the New York Daily News.
Hughes is involved in the study of "new particles and new interactions using the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN," according to his faculty biography, and frequently travels to Geneva for research.
UPDATE, 6:00 p.m.: The Columbia Spectator reports university spokesperson Robert Hornsby issued a statement on Hughes' unusual class introduction, saying they are "reviewing the facts of this particular presentation":
Universities are committed to maintaining a climate of academic freedom, in which the faculty members are given the widest possible latitude in their teaching and scholarship. However, the freedoms traditionally accorded the faculty carry corresponding responsibilities. Columbia’s Faculty Handbook states that “In conducting their classes, faculty should promote an atmosphere of mutual tolerance, respect, and civility [and] should confine their classes to the subject matter covered by their courses.” While one must exercise caution in judging excerpts from a lecture or short presentations from an entire course outside of their full context, the appropriate academic administrators are currently reviewing the facts of this particular presentation in quantum mechanics.
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