A professor at a community college in Texas acted so strangely in his class on Tuesday, Jan. 16, that some of his students walked out and called the police.
Daniel Mashburn, an adjunct professor at Tarrant County College (TCC) in Fort Worth, Texas, showed up to his astronomy class late, his students say, and things just got stranger from there.
He was wearing a baseball cap, what looked like a scarf over his face, and gloves to cover his hands. The first thing he did when he walked into class was switch off the lights, his students said.
“Mostly he was talking about different things of the Muslim faith,” student April McLeod told Fox4. “I was in class for about five minutes.”
“At one point he stood face to face with the board of the classroom and was just talking to the board,” she said.
“He kept messing with his pocket and you could tell there was an object in the right-hand pocket. And whenever he went to pull out his hand, I started having this really bad feeling and jumped up and ran out of the classroom.”
Someone called the police, who questioned Mashburn, but they found no weapon on him and let him go.
He agreed to an interview with Fox4, but only from his apartment balcony. He still had his face and hands covered and was clutching a Koran.
Fox 4’s Brandon Todd: Are you aware that you scared some of those students?
Mashburn: Why should they be afraid?
Todd: Well you wouldn’t show your face.
Mashburn: Many people do not show their faces. And in many countries, they do not show their faces.
Todd: Well here in America, we tend to usually show our face when we are a professor at a college. That’s typically the standard.
Mashburn: Oh, yes. But I do not answer to your standard. I am not a Christian. I am not a Jew. I’m a Muslim.
Todd: When you interviewed with Tarrant County College to get this job, did you explain to them your teaching philosophy?
Mashburn: I keep it secret. I keep it safe. I do my best, but I am tired of hiding in the shadows. I am tired of fearing their law. I fear Allah.
Todd: What do you have to say to those students who were frightened enough last night they had to call 911?
Mashburn: I do not know why they fear me. Why are they afraid? I’m a man who covers his face and his hand. I offer you nothing but the Quran a book and the universe. The universe is in my hand right here. You can look at it.
He also did an interview with the school’s newspaper, The Collegian, in which he reiterated that he was baffled by students’ response to his behavior.
“They pay a measly fee, $56 to, at most, $129—a miserable sum for the knowledge and wisdom that I can pass onto them,” he said. “Why would they walk out on me? Why would they protest me?”
“I wanted to show them [the stars] to the class in my own way,” he said. “I wanted to read from the book in my own way. I just got a little lost. I just needed someone else to hear and follow along.”
When asked about why he covered his face and hands, he said it was because his skin was sensitive. He washes several times a day, a ritual he says is part of his Muslim faith, so his face and hands become very dry. He says he covers them for that reason.
Suzanne Groves, TCC’s executive director of communications, told the Star-Telegram that this was Mashburn’s second term teaching at the college. She said he had been suspended indefinitely while the college investigates the incident.
“The class has been taken over by another instructor,” she said. “And it is meeting at its regularly scheduled time this [Thursday] evening.”