A New York University student raised alarm on social media after a professor for her online course on propaganda "spent an entire class period telling students that wearing masks don't prevent the spread of COVID-19."
In several tweets, Julia Jackson on Sunday said NYU communications professor Mark Crispin Miller is using his position of power to accredit far-right and conspiracy websites, as well as adding to skepticism around medical professionals, and called for Miller to be fired.
While Miller cites scientific studies in his argument that masks aren't effective in stopping the spread of flu-like respiratory diseases, Jackson said he also links to many far-right and conspiracy websites.
In response, Miller called Jackson's tweets "venomous" and said he told students to not ignore the state's and the school's mask mandate. He defended the teachings in his Mass Persuasion and Propaganda course and said that the worldwide mask-wearing is propaganda peddled by the "left" and mainstream media.
Miller argued that he wants to urge students to think for themselves and study the evidence instead of merely bowing to authority. "That’s my intellectual and civic obligation, as a teacher, whatever NYU’s official policy, or New York State’s. It’s one thing to expect the students to obey their institution’s rules, but quite another thing to urge them not to think about it," he wrote in a blog post on Monday.
The university, which has been trying to curb an uptick in COVID-19 cases by cracking down on parties, says it sent out an email to students in Miller's class to remind them of the mask guidance from health officials.
"Amid the reports about this online class, we have communicated directly with the students in it to remind them of the guidance from health authorities," the university said in a statement.
When it comes to conflicting studies that refer to the effectiveness of masks, Jackson said even if they are actually ineffective, the risk of spreading a potentially deadly virus is higher than the inconvenience of covering her face.
"I would rather wear a mask and it not have done anything to help, than not wear a mask and risk hurting other people. I hope everyone feels this way, too, because like it or not, we're in this together," she said.