Welcome to Stalin’s Russia: cancellation demanded for New York professor who fell asleep during an antiracist Zoom meeting

There’s an anecdote I well remember from Solzhenitsyn’s great book The Gulag Archipelago, and one I just verified by a bit of Googling. After a speech either by Stalin or about him, the Russian audience leapt to its feet and began applauding wildly. To not join in was, of course, a serious mistake in those times of Stalinist terror. The problem was that nobody wanted to be the first to stop applauding, as this might be taken as a slur on the Great Leader. Disappearingman.com relates what happened, quoting the book:

“The applause went on—six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly…Nine minutes! Ten!…Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers.”

At last, after eleven minutes of non-stop clapping, the director of a paper factory finally decided enough was enough. He stopped clapping and sat down—a miracle!
“To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down,” Solzhenitsyn says.

That same night, the director of the paper factory was arrested and sent to prison for ten years. Authorities came up with some official reason for his sentence, but during his interrogation, he was told: “Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding!”

I was reminded of that incident (do read the book!) when reader Luana sent me this article from the New York Post. Now you may denigrate the paper because it’s a tabloid, but this report seems pretty accurate in view of the petition that’s online. First, read it, clicking on the screenshot. The headline tells the sad tale:

Yes, and the falling asleep during the anti-racist Zoom meeting—truth be told, Zoom meetings are pretty soporific, whatever the topic—led to calls for the professor to be fired. Here’s the whole story:

Students at pricey Marymount Manhattan College are demanding a veteran professor be fired for allegedly falling asleep during an anti-racism Zoom meeting.

Students at the Upper East Side school claim Patricia Simon, a theater arts associate professor, took a snooze during the virtual town hall last month, and have collected 1,800 petition signatures.

Petition organizer Caitlin Gagnon said, “This action has only capitalized on a pattern of negligence and disrespect that Patricia Simon has exhibited over and over again.”

Gagnon included a photo of the 30-year prof, and also accused her of enabling “sizeist” staffers.

Simon told The Post the camera caught her at the wrong angle.“I was at no time asleep or disinterested. My ears were open … My heart was open as well,” she said.

The apology is a bit craven here, but that’s the way these things go. Here’s the photo included with the Change.org petition:

 

And here’s the accusation and demand for change:

This is a petition that is demanding the removal a faculty member who does not align with the anti-racist views and actions that were promised to be adopted by the department earlier this week at the Town Hall meetings. It has been brought to the attention of the students that Patricia Simon was sleeping during the Town Hall Meeting that took place on June 29th. This action has only capitalized on a pattern of negligence and disrespect that Patricia Simon has exhibited over and over again in her time as an Associate Professor, and Coordinator of the BFA Musical Theater Program. Professor Simon has a history of ignoring instances of racism in the form of racial profiling within the program, and enabling the racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction. She has also been known to use her power to intimidate and bully the students in her program who have made efforts to advocate for themselves or for their fellow peers. These actions have proven to the students within the program that she does not have the best interests of all students in mind, and therefore, she should not be an educator any longer.

Now I doubt that Dr. Simon will be fired, because if she is, then virtually everyone in America should be fired. Granted, she’s accused of other charges of impurity, including “enabling the racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction.” What on earth does that mean? No tangible examples are given, but none are needed for the Offense Brigade. An accusation is the same as a conviction, just as in Stalin’s Russia.

We’re now at the point when falling asleep at the wrong time, like stopping clapping at the wrong time, can injure you, at least potentially. I can’t conceive of a ludicrous accusation like this getting any traction twenty years ago. Yes, Cancel Culture is real, and we’ll have more on it later.

70 Comments

  1. jezgrove
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Not for the first time, words fail me. Given the state of the world you really would think that these activists could find something worth while to do with their time.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      They censor see how privileged they are to be able to accuse others of being privileged. It’s an absurd irony.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Can’t see. An amusing autocorrect.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 18, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          I think the censors have taken over Autocorrect.

  2. GBJames
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Sub

  3. phoffman56
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    “I was at no time asleep or disinterested.”

    Stupid petition of course. And I assume this is a post secondary institution of education to some extent–nothing with a name including “Marymount” could be exclusively that of course.

    However that being the case, and me being facetious, maybe she should be fired for not knowing the difference between ‘disinterested’ and ‘uninterested’.

    I realize it might then be hard to find anyone educated in US for such positions.

    • Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Is there a difference between the two words? I am asking for a friend who is afraid to come forward.

      • GBJames
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Yes, they are completely different. The one she used is not the one she correct one. She said that at no time was she asleep or impartial.

        • phoffman56
          Posted July 18, 2020 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

          Whereas I’m quite sure she actually meant to say that at no time was she asleep or not interested in what was going on.

          • Paul Matthews
            Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

            This kind of thing drives me crazy. There is an available word that has the meaning these people require. It is “uninterested”, which is just as easy to say as “disinterested”, yet they use the latter, thereby robbing it of its original and, in my opinion, useful meaning. And to my dismay I fear the battle to retain the original meaning of “disinterested” is lost.

            • phoffman56
              Posted July 19, 2020 at 6:10 am | Permalink

              Exactly; see 3rd paragraph in 3. above.

      • phoffman56
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        It is undoubtedly true that USian, and now other, dictionaries these days give 2 definitions of ‘disinterested’, something like:

        1/ the way this word was used in the past, namely the property of a possibly involved party to a dispute between two others for whom either resolution would make no difference; and

        2/ a way for a USian to sound really like a deep thinker by using a less common (IMHO, incorrect) term when he really means ‘uninterested’. Well, I’m being a smart-ass again, though that would be how it began to be used that way in the US, and ultimately will likely get to be used everywhere, the usual ambiguity-creating role of many annoying but unstoppable language changes by morons.

    • kps
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Maybe she does know the difference, and is having a laugh knowing that the petitioners don’t.

      • phoffman56
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

        Good point, but it is also a classic example of the ambiguity mentioned just above.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 18, 2020 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

          “What are you doing using your big school words? Just use normal people words and I’ll understand what you’re talking about.” – Ricky, Trailer park boys

          • phoffman56
            Posted July 19, 2020 at 6:17 am | Permalink

            And that was the 1st time more than 20 consecutive words were uttered by one of the boys which included no ‘4-letter-words’!

            Before that, I’d thought Nova Scotians were simon pure. What’s the world coming to?

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of all those sexual harassment training sessions we attended at the company I worked for. You could stay awake or sleep and get the same good from these classes. They had almost no affect on the problem. If they had been giving classes on rape I am sure the affect would have been the same.

    • jezgrove
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Lucky you used the past tense “worked” there, or I suspect another petition could have been in the offing. 😉

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Yes and lucky they eventually stopped the annual classes and instead, installed a good system to remove almost all sexual harassment from the firm.

        • eric grobler
          Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          “installed a good system”
          Can you elaborate?

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

            Just briefly as I do not want to take up too much room here. Within the legal and Human Resources directorates you establish a special EEO section that is trained specifically for sexual harassment. There are also a number of personnel that are trained as sexual harassment investigators. The general policy within the company (worldwide) is – any employee can report sexual harassment. They do this by going to their supervisor or directly to HR (human resources to report. All supervisors know they must turn in any reported sexual harassment within 2 hours to HR. A sexual harassment investigator will immediately begin an investigation. This is done quietly and behind closed doors. The investigator will likely begin by first interviewing the person making the report and then others that may be involved. At some point the accused will also be interviewed. Keep in mind all of this is done quietly and without any public discussion or involvement. The investigator will turn in the finished investigation and finding to HR and legal for further action as needed.

            • eric grobler
              Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

              Sounds very reasonable (if you have sensible HR department)

              • Randall Schenck
                Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

                Yes, if it is handled as a deadly serious business and very professionally, it works.

  5. rickflick
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I keep waiting for this woke thing to peter out. How long do we have to wait? Scary to think it could get worse than this.

    • jezgrove
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Maybe that was the problem – the professor certainly doesn’t look very “woke” in the photo …

      • Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        😀 Good one!

      • Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        😂

      • rickflick
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        A face mask with a big grin, plus a pair of glasses with bright buggy eyes painted on.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        For want of a nail shot of espresso, the kingdom professorship was lost.

    • Richard Sanderson🤴
      Posted July 19, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      “I keep waiting for this woke thing to peter out.”

      It won’t be quick.

      It is institutional, and is tied up in lots of industries. Lots of people will lose their grifting money if the woke movement collapses. The “anti-racist training” hustle is huge business. We’re talking many billions of dollars or equivalent currency.

  6. mallardbrad
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    More idiocy from the “woke” ones on the far left. Balderdash! She should leave the so called institution with her sanity intact.

  7. kraeuterbutter
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    The only thing that comes to mind is this: The organizer of the petition has lost his mind.

  8. Historian
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    For the school to fire Patricia Simon for allegedly sleeping during an anti-racism town hall would be lubricious and reprehensible. It would be surrendering to the mob. Yet, this incident seems to be a proxy for Simon being a terrible and abusive teacher, at least according to some of the people who signed the petition. Not all these complaints against her are race based. At the below cited link, many students describe what kind of teacher she is – and isn’t flattering. So, the school should investigate, with giving only minor weight to this incident, as to whether Simon is worthy of being on the faculty. I don’t know if she is tenured, but, at least, if the school finds her to be a poor and abusive teacher, she should be required to improve her behavior.

    https://www.change.org/p/jill-stevenson-and-mary-fleischer-mmc-performing-arts-for-racial-justice?signed=true

    • jezgrove
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      The petition claims “Professor Simon has a history of ignoring instances of racism in the form of racial profiling within the program, and enabling the racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction.” I’m guessing that the “racial profiling” might relate to something like traditional casting of the role of a medieval Danish prince, or similar. (Though with McKellen about to take on the role at the age of 81, tradition is pretty much out of the window these days.)

      If any allegations of racism on the part of Simon or her vocal coaches are true they should, of course, be dealt with. It would be interesting to know if any such actions were the subject of formal complaints at the time that they allegedly occurred and if so what the outcome was.

    • eric grobler
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      “So, the school should investigate…”

      I agree with you in principle, but living in Maoist times would she get a fair hearing?

      Typical accusations:
      – ‘constant racist and fatphobic harassment’
      – ‘my fellow students of color who have been belittled by the MMC theatre department’
      – ‘Within all of that she is racist, sexist,’
      – ‘She discriminated against me due to my weight and not being “white enough”‘
      – ‘She told me multiple times that when I sing I sound like Minnie Mouse’
      – ‘I’ve seen her deny students song choices because of their race’

      Difficult to know what to make of this.
      She sounds like a very unpleasant person, perhaps borderline, however students are primed to see racism and sexism everywhere.

      • Ken Phelps
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Yes they are primed. I would take their perceptions of grievance with precisely the seriousness accorded to a pouting child.

      • Posted July 18, 2020 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know what to make of it either. I am prejudiced to see the complaints as being from Woke and fragile snowflakes, and so I don’t trust myself to see them objectively.

      • denise
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

        She has some very glowing reviews on Rate My Professors. And some awful ones. More 5s than 1s. 88% would take her again. The bad ones are similar to those in the petition, including charges that she called students fat and ugly.

        It sounds like she’s preparing students for actual careers in musical theater, for which they will need thick skins.

    • Posted July 18, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      You appear to be right. The zoom incident is apparently only the last straw. NY Post’s framing is misleading, to say the least.

      When I saw the first few words of the title, “Welcome to Stalin’s Russ…”, in my inbox, I thought this was going to be about those masked badgeless agents arresting protesters in Portland.

  9. Patrick
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I suggest firing the person running such a boring presentation.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      “I suggest firing the person running such a boring presentation.”

      +1

  10. eric grobler
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Have a look at the petition support comments:

    https://www.change.org/p/jill-stevenson-and-mary-fleischer-mmc-performing-arts-for-racial-justice/c?source_location=petition_show

    Only 1 “semi-positive” comment I saw!

    “She’s my advisor and has been nothing but lovely to me, but I trust my classmates. They deserve to feel just as safe and respected as I do.”

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I was reading this morning about Lord North, who was Prime Minister during the American Revolution, and read this quip of his, which reminded me of the professor falling asleep.

    When taunted by an opposition member with his habit of sleeping in the House, “Even now, in the midst of these perils, the noble lord is asleep,”—“I wish to God I were,” interrupted the secretary.

  12. Jon Gallant
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    That famous 1937 speech celebrated the wonders of the USSR’s election system. Comrade Stalin, the greatest stable genius of the age, explained it to the voters as follows: “Here [in the Soviet Union] elections are held in an atmosphere of collaboration between the workers, the peasants and the intelligentsia, in an atmosphere of mutual confidence between them, in an atmosphere, I would, say, of mutual friendship…our elections are the only really free and really democratic elections in the whole world…The work is directed by men and women of the people. That is what we call Socialism in practice. …I would like you, comrades, to exercise systematic influence on your deputies, to impress upon them that they must constantly keep before them the great image of the great Lenin and imitate Lenin in all things.”

    In the ensuing election, the All Union Communist Party won 99.3% of the vote. 0.7% against it was recorded. It is unknown what happened to that 0.7% of the electorate.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1937_Soviet_Union_legislative_election

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Who’d have thought that, three decades on from the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia would once again find itself in the yoke of another tin-pot despot — this one a reactionary kleptocrat — who recently won a similarly lopsided “election” amending his failed state’s fatuous constitution to allow him to extend his 20-year iron grip for another 16 years, and whose dearest wish is to reconstitute the Russian Empire?

      Is there a Russian language equivalent for plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        Fits right in with our storm Trooper operations out in Portland right now. Putin should be proud of his lacky in the white house.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Is there a Russian language equivalent…
        Whatever, “Off with his head!” is in Russian.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted July 18, 2020 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

          “Comrade, the Commissar will see you now.”

          • jezgrove
            Posted July 18, 2020 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

            I’m laughing, but maybe I should be crying instead.

        • Jon Gallant
          Posted July 18, 2020 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

          “Is there a Russian language equivalent for plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose?”

          Of course there is: Россия (Russia).

  13. Posted July 18, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Will she have to wear a dunce’s cap for her next Zoom indoctrination session?

  14. John Dentinger
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Ok, here comes a true story, I swear. I had a teacher colleague who had lost his right eye to an accident–replaced with a glass one. During faculty meetings, he would lean forward at the desk, place a hand over his good eye, and zone out with elbows on the desk. I would poke him when the meeting was over. At that poke, he was woke.

    • Filippo
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      ” . . . a teacher colleague . . . lost his right eye to an accident–replaced with a glass one . . . would lean forward at the desk, place a hand over his good eye, and zone out with elbows on the desk . . . .”

      BRAVO!

    • phoffman56
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      I can do (and do do) the aural analogue of that visual trick: I’m completely deaf in one ear, and so can innocuously stick a finger in the other one: two fingers would make it obvious what you’re doing.

  15. dd
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    There is no more need to denigrate the New York Post’s credibility because it is a tabloid than to attribute veracity to what the New York Times prints merely because it is not a tabloid and because it’s reputed to be the “newspaper of record”.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Mebbe so, but in a head-to-head race I’d still bet on Secretariat, even years after it had been put out to stud and was well past its racing prime, against a nag that had been pulling a plow.

      There’s a reason The Daily Racing Form handicaps races based on past-performance charts.

  16. Jim batterson
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    “Sizeism”? Really? Good grief

    • eric grobler
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      It is a HUGE problem!

      • Posted July 18, 2020 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        😀

      • jezgrove
        Posted July 18, 2020 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        What do they want us to do? Slim it down?

  17. Posted July 18, 2020 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve expected this sort of thing for quite a long time. We already have our own Committee for State Security, after all.

  18. eric grobler
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    A Maoist rather than Stalinist trajectory?

  19. dd
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    HI Dr. Coyne, well, he’s got 50,000 already:

  20. Charles A Sawicki
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Great example of the woke striving to make the world a better place through their valiant efforts and personal sacrifice!

  21. SweetPeavey
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Reading the comments left by some of the signatories was hilarious and terrifying, they make her sound like a rampaging, tyrannical bigot.
    In fairness, it does sound like she was a bit of a bitch.
    But learning to deal with such personalities is one of the reasons you go to school in the first place.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Seems a solid reason for writing a snarky end-of-term class evaluation, a piss-poor one for a petition demanding for a professor’s ouster.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted July 18, 2020 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      In my experience, the woke people who start such petitions are hardly in a position to complain about bitchy and dysfunctional personalities in others.

  22. Lee
    Posted July 18, 2020 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    “Yes, Cancel Culture is real”

    Yes, and if anything can drive otherwise sane people back to the arms of a vile, failed subliterate like Trump, it’s precisely behavior like this. That’s my biggest fear.

  23. Richard Sanderson🤴
    Posted July 19, 2020 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    “Cancel culture doesn’t exist” – ‘skeptic’ Peter “Humanisticus” Ferguson.

    Just in case anybody was wondering why the skeptic movement disintegrated.

  24. Posted July 19, 2020 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Rule number one of Zoom meetings: Don’t turn your camera on.

    Rule number two of Zoom meetings: Keep yourself muted unless you want to speak.


%d bloggers like this: