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Professor apologizes for telling students to go to bars, catch COVID-19 to ‘get it over with’

A Pennsylvania university professor has apologized after telling students they should go out and catch coronavirus to ‘get it over with’. 

Kutztown University associate professor Dr. Victor J. Massad, 67, made the controversial statement during a Zoom session on the Berks County school’s first day of classes.  

‘I think the sooner you guys get it, the better,’ business professor Massad told students August 24, referring to coronavirus. 

‘Because none of you are gonna die from this and we need to have, you know, everybody be immune. And so the sooner that people are immune, the better. And so you all should be going to Shorty’s every night, you know, interacting, getting this thing, get it over with.’ 

Shorty’s Bar is a pub near the school campus in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. 

The Zoom session was recorded and eventually shared via social media according to Philly Voice.  

Massad’s comments received backlash from the Kutztown community – and  contradicted the school’s reopening advice, which is to wear masks and practice social distancing. 

Shorty’s, which is closed during the pandemic, has been actively encouraging masks, social distancing or staying at home as coronavirus safety measures since lockdowns began in the spring and did not appear to be amused by Maassad’s statement. 

‘Be as safe as possible. Wear a mask, don’t gather in groups, socially distance. We care about your safety more than making money,’ the bar tweeted Friday. ‘We want so bad to give you the party you deserve but we need to keep everyone in this town safe. HELP US, AND BE SMART SO WE CAN SEE YOU SOON.’

In response to patrons who said they missed drinking at the bar, Shorty’s also tweeted that day: ‘Same but unlike Massad we don’t want y’all to get Covid.’ 

The professor’s coronavirus statements came before school officials revealed that a student had tested positive for the virus Thursday, just one week after students had moved onto campus, WFMZ reported. 

On Friday, Massad told the Philly Voice that his advice to students was ‘indefensible and repugnant.’

He noted, however, that he ‘was being rhetorical and flippant when I made the comments.’

Despite this, ‘I am embarrassed and ashamed to have made them. I consider it a huge lapse in professional judgment,’ he added. 

He also told Lehigh Valley Live that ‘The idea that I would intentionally encourage students to go to Shorty’s and socialize is ridiculous on its face’ and that he ‘would not intentionally encourage students to go to Shorty’s and socialize in normal times, let alone in the midst of a pandemic.’ 

School officials told the Philly Voice that the issue ‘has been addressed,’ but did not reveal whether Massad will face disciplinary action, as it is a ‘confidential personnel matter.’

Massad told Lehigh Valley Live that he met with a school official and apologized. The official, in turn, told him that make it clear that he supports the school’s coronavirus protocols and urge students to follow them, ‘which I am happy to do,’ Massad said.  

As part of his explanation for his Zoom statements, Massad wrote a letter to school officials stating that his comments were inspired by a New York Times article discussing herd immunity, in which enough people develop immunity to a virus, that it prevents it from being able to spread among the community. 

As coronavirus doesn’t have a vaccine or specific treatment yet – and there are now cases of people being reinfected with coronavirus after having recovered from it – scientists do not encourage people to purposely try to contract.

‘I was more or less running a “war game” in my head, asking myself if maybe we were making a mistake by standing in place, which I think has been very limited in its success,’ Massad wrote in his letter according to the Philly Voice, as part of his explanation.   

‘I realize that my words, and the subsequent viral video have placed the university in a negative light, and for this I apologize to anyone in the institution who has been negatively affected by my words,’ he wrote.

Massad also noted that the blow back from his comments had ’caused me to reflect on all of the factors that have led up to it.’

The factors, he wrote, included ‘my level of burnout, the expectations of higher education in these days of hyper-charged political correctness, the viral nature of social media and the ease with which a reputation can be destroyed by it, the changing attitudes of students, and most importantly my advancing age and the fact that, as a classical liberal, I am somewhat of a pariah and dinosaur in higher education.’

Massad told Lehigh Vallet Live that he will decide in March 2021 whether he should retire or return for the next school year.

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