A New Jersey community college is investigating why a professor shouted the F-word at a student in an incident that was caught on camera. The student identifies as politically conservative, and the incident has sparked complaints about the college as a liberal atmosphere where alternative political viewpoints are not tolerated.
During a Sociology 105, Intercultural Communication class Wednesday, Brookdale Community College professor Howard Finkelstein grew angry with his student, Christopher Lyle, shouted “f— your life,” and pounded his hand on a table, according to video obtained by NJ Advance Media.
The incident, recorded on another student’s cell phone, came after Lyle insisted both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment, said Lyle, in an interview with NJ Advance Media. It is one of many disagreements Lyle says he’s had with Finkelstein over the course of the semester. The footage has since been shared on conservative websites, such as unclesamsmisguidedchildren.com, and social media pages and branded as an example of growing liberal indoctrination on college campuses.
“I am being discriminated against at my school because of my beliefs,” Lyle, 23, of Toms River, said. “It’s a shame.”
Finkelstein, a veteran community college teacher and counselor, did not respond to requests for comment. College spokeswoman Avis McMillon said the school cannot comment until its investigation is complete.
In an interview, Lyle said that Finkelstein’s outburst is part of the professor’s pattern of dismissing and disrespecting Lyle’s conservative viewpoints. It’s a grievance that echoes nationwide complaints from conservative students who feel they can’t share their social or political views on left-leaning campuses.
Finkelstein regularly tells Lyle to “shut up,” has criticized him for owning a gun and dismissed his opinions as “the reason America is not great,” Lyle said.
The student who shot the video, Joey Smith, said that Finkelstein’s class frequently devolves into lectures directed specifically at Lyle. Smith doesn’t always agree with Lyle’s views, but doesn’t think a teacher should ask for a student’s personal views only to rip them, he said.
Smith recorded last week’s class session so he could show his friends why he hates the course, he said.
“He is basically just lecturing this one student for the whole period,” Smith, 26, said. “We are sitting there and he is speaking directly to Chris, going back and forth about personal thoughts.”
The day following Finkelstein’s outburst, Lyle was pulled out of another class by a college official, Lyle said. The administrator said he knows Lyle is a gun owner and wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt anyone, according to Lyle.
Lyle added that he felt the college was more concerned about him being a gun owner than a professor berating him, and he was being discriminated against again.
In a statement, the college said does not discriminate against anyone for personal beliefs.
“It is in the best interest of all members of our community for the college to do its due diligence when a student or employee mentions firearms during the process of an investigation,” the college said. “The matter concerning the student’s statements about firearms has been investigated and the incident is closed.”
Lyle initially didn’t plan to return to Finkelstein’s class but decided to go back and make sure is voice is heard, he said.
“I have to stand up for myself and my beliefs,” he said said. “I pay money to learn. I don’t pay money to get lectured on my beliefs.”