Ferris State University proffesor on leave after claiming COVID is ‘leftist stunt’ to destroy civil liberties

A science professor has been put on administrative leave after claiming that coronavirus measures such as mask wearing and limiting gatherings are nothing more than a “leftist stunt to destroy civil liberties.”

Thomas Brennan, an assistant physical science professor in the College of Arts, Sciences and Education at Ferris State University in Michigan, also posted racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs on Twitter, the university president David Eisler said in a statement Monday.



a group of people walking in front of a building: Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich.


© Carlos Osorio
Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich.

Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. (Carlos Osorio/)

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“Individually and collectively we were shocked and outraged by these tweets,” Eisler said. “They are extremely offensive and run counter to the values of our University and our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Our students, faculty, staff and members of the community are upset and offended by these comments, and they should be.”

In August he had disrupted a Zoom staff meeting, with comments in the chat sidebar, student newspaper The Torch reported.

“The pandemic and riots are a leftist stunt to overthrow the United States government and destroy our [civil] liberties,” he wrote, according to a screenshot obtained by The Torch.

After that meeting, Trinidy Williams, the interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, emailed faculty assuring them she was addressing the instance of “unprofessional behavior” that “undermined the gravity” of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Torch reported.

Other meeting attendees decried the sowing of misinformation and confusion, especially about a disease that has killed more than a quarter-million people in the U.S., nearly 8,500 of them in Michigan alone, where more than 300,000 people are infected, according to news site MLive.

Brennan didn’t stop there, according to The Torch. A Twitter account under his name calls COVID-19 a hoax and holds that only cowards wear masks. It calls COVID-19 an “attempt to turn us all into slaves” and proclaims, “Guess what, the COVID stunt has failed. You won’t get your leftist new world order.”

“I did say some hyperbolic things to draw attention to what it is I wanted to say,” Brennan told WZZM-TV.

That included using a racial epithet that he called “an atomic word” designed to make people listen.

“I didn’t use it lightly,” Brennan told WZZM. “But we’re heading toward such a crescendo of madness where we’re about to all be enslaved because of this COVID crisis.”

He insisted in a statement on his website that he does believe COVID is real but thinks its severity and the death count are exaggerated. He also said the 1969 moon landing was faked.

Masks?

“Putting a muzzle over our face is actually a dehumanizing and satanic ritual,” Brennan told the station.

Students were aghast, and the school put him on leave last Thursday, Eisler said, also launching an investigation.

“Our University was founded on the concept that education is for all of the people all of the time, that all people are welcome here,” Eisler said in his statement. “We strongly reject

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Do toppers think of civil as a less lucrative stream

Even if the oldest examinee in the Graduate Aptitude Test for Engineers (GATE) 2021 is 88 years old, qualified civil engineer, JEE Advanced 2020 toppers seem to have given civil engineering the short shrift. Going by recent preferences of the toppers in the first round of seat allocation, the majority of the top 500 candidates in the open category in the Common Rank List (CRL) have opted for Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) programme while vying for nine of 23 top IITs. What may come as a surprise is that civil engineering (CE) is among the less preferred choices, this when, IT companies tend to recruit not just fresh computer science graduates, but even those from the ceramic engineering streams.

It will be difficult to attribute any single reason to the current trend, says V Ramgopal Rao, director IIT Delhi. “Both civil engineering and computer science engineering are equally good and important departments at IIT Delhi. Student preferences are based on multiple considerations including perception, pay packages, job prospects, social pressures, last year cut-offs etc,” he adds.

Students will always be driven by market forces including developments and innovations in the area,” says Eldho TI, Institute Chair Professor and head, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, known to have modern lab facilities, quality faculty, ambience and plethora of opportunities for CE students to develop their professional and personal skills.

He recalls the 1970s and 1980s when civil engineering was among the top choices. “Government jobs at that time which was assured for civil engineers was prestigious in the society. However, with tremendous developments in the areas of CS, IT and electronics in the past three decades, the student interest and trend changed. Market forces such as high pay packages for CS as opposed to the normal pay packages and necessity to work in the field for CE changed students’ perception.”

Manu Santhanam, head, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, attributes the recent stream choices to a lack of awareness about civil engineering and the gloss surrounding the IT profession. “In the views of a common person, a civil engineer slogs it out in the open irrespective of the weather, with no clearly defined work hours, and generally (much) lower pay packages than equally qualified professionals in other fields. As a result, the typical civil engineering roles are perceived to be less glamorous compared to the roles of software engineers, management consultants, or even manufacturing industry personnel.”

The truth of the matter, he claims, is that civil engineering goes much beyond the field practice. “The breadth and depth of subjects in this field are unmatched except perhaps in mechanical engineering. Further, the concepts learnt by civil engineering students attune them to solving global challenges, like sustainable infrastructure development, reducing pollution, enabling clean water, just to name a few. Civil engineers are thus more likely than computer science majors to be found in leadership roles in various organisations that look at solving large scale problems.”

Santhanam stresses that

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Trump issues order for some career federal employees to lose their civil service protections

“This is the most profound undermining of the civil service in our lifetimes,” American Federation of Government Employees President Everett Kelley said in a statement. “The president has doubled down on his effort to politicize and corrupt the professional service.

“This executive order strips due process rights and protections from perhaps hundreds of thousands of federal employees and will enable political appointees and other officials to hire and fire these workers at will,” he said.

Trump said his order will “give agencies greater ability and discretion to assess critical qualities in applicants to fill these positions, such as work ethic, judgment, and ability to meet the particular needs of the agency.”

Among career employees, the “excepted service” mainly applies to positions in which it is not practical to use competitive processes in hiring, such as administrative law judges and attorneys. Employees of some entire agencies, such as intelligence agencies, also are in the excepted service.

Agencies are not required to post excepted service vacancies on the central USAJobs.gov recruiting site—although some do—and need not use rating systems required when hiring for competitive service jobs. Also, there is no formal preference for veterans. Unless they are veterans, excepted service employees do not gain appeal rights until after two years of employment, rather than the standard one year.

The order tells agencies to conduct an initial review within three months, and a full review within seven months, of their positions “of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition.”

Agencies then are to ask the Office of Personnel Management to move those positions into a newly created category of the excepted service, although a list of “prohibited personnel practices” such as discrimination and nepotism would continue to apply to them.”

While not defining which occupations would be affected, such duties would include development or advocacy of policy; involvement with writing regulations and guidance; work in an agency component that primarily focuses on policy; supervision of attorneys; work in the agency’s executive secretariat; conducting negotiations with employee unions; or work that includes “substantial discretion to determine the manner in which the agency exercises functions committed to the agency by law.”

The order cites “the need to provide agency heads with additional flexibility to assess prospective appointees without the limitations imposed by competitive service selection procedures. Placing these positions in the excepted service will mitigate undue limitations on their selection.”

It also says that “Career employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy making, and policy-advocating positions wield significant influence over Government operations and effectiveness. Agencies need the flexibility to expeditiously remove poorly performing employees from these positions without facing extensive delays or litigation.”

The order follows the recent issuance of rules telling agencies to provide only the minimal accommodations required by law to assist underperforming employees before disciplining them and to make the maximum use of their discretion in choosing discipline either for poor performance or misconduct.

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