A tenured instructor at Oxnard College, identified by students as Michael Abram, was placed on administrative leave after a confrontation with a student Thursday.
In video that has since gone viral of the class Zoom meeting, a student can be heard telling Abram she’s hard of hearing.
“Ms. Salazar I’ve been talking to you, Ms. Salazar,” the instructor can be heard saying.
“I can hear you a little bit,” she responds.
“You can hear me a little bit? Why didn’t you answer all the time I spoke to you then?” Abram, who teaches anatomy and physiology, says.
“I’m hard of hearing,” she says as he continues talking.
“Why don’t we talk sometimes? Why don’t you email me? We’ll set up a live Zoom and we’re gonna have some real communication at some point in time,” the instructor says aggressively. “Maybe you can have your counselor join us.”
At that point, another student intervenes.
“Professor? She’s actually hard of hearing. So her translator goes in a little bit late. She can’t respond right away,” the student says.
To which the instructor responds, “She’s not paying attention. She’s not trying. Are you her translator?”
“No, I’m not … but it’s slower on her end because she needs to get it translated and then it goes through her hearing aide,” she says.
“Ms. Salazar, have your counselor speak with me because you have too much distraction to even understand what’s going on,” he says.
The Ventura County Community College District, which oversees Oxnard, Moorpark and Ventura colleges, said they received hundreds of calls and emails alerting them about the video.
“A lot of the people are understandably angry, upset and saddened by what they saw in the video,” said Greg Gillespie, the district’s chancellor.
The district held a media Zoom call Friday and announced that a formal investigation was immediately initiated. Abram was put on paid leave until the investigation is completed, they said, adding that it could take three months.
“The video itself is heartbreaking,” said Oxnard College President Luis Sanchez. “No matter what led up to that interaction, there is no justification. … It horrified me.”
District officials would not comment on whether there have been complaints against Abram in the past.
“We’re here to support students,” Gillespie said during the briefing. “We do not tolerate discriminatory, rude or bullying behavior.”
District officials said they’ve reached out to the student to offer support, and other students in the class are expected to be interviewed during the investigation.
Faculty are trained to work with a diverse student body, officials said, admitting that the video shows more work needs to be done in that regard.