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A theatre professor at prestigious Marymount Manhattan College in New York has come under fire for allegedly falling asleep during a Zoom call on anti-racism. There are almost 2,000 signatories to the petition for the professor's removal, according to Newsweek.
The meeting on June 29 was meant to talk about bringing in an "anti-racist framework" to the educational system at Marymount. Patricia Simon, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts, said that she did not fall asleep.
"I was not asleep as is implied at any point during the meeting," Simon said to Campus Reform. "The photo used was taken without permission when I was looking down briefly resting my Zoom-weary eyes."
It was Marymount student Caitlin Gagnon who brought the petition two weeks ago, which read "This is a petition that is demanding the removal [of] a faculty member who does not alight with the anti-racist views and actions that were promised to be adopted by the department earlier this week at the Town Hall meetings."
Simon was then critiqued for her record in the theatre department, where she has been on staff since 1991. Gagnon wrote in the petition that in her work, Simon has been "enabling the racist and sizeist actions and words of the vocal coaches under her jurisdiction."
The petition went on to say that Simon "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."
Despite Gagnon believing that Simon has a history of "racist and sizeist actions," Gagnon waited until after Simon was seen with eyes closed in a clip from the Zoom meeting before bringing her petition against the faculty member.
Comments on the petition in favour of Simon's removal included that of Clair Rundhaug, a Marymount parent, who said that Simon's "complete disinterest... in the issue of racial justice and LGBTQ plus inclusion" was "on display" during the Zoom meeting, which had over 150 participants.
Alyssa Tryon claimed that Simon is "racist and fatphobic and a toxic professor that should have been removed from MMC a very long time ago."
The American theatre arts have been lambasted by theatre artists who claim that they are not inclusive enough. However, Simon said she was just closing her eyes. She said "I listened with my ears and heart the entire meeting."