Prof. Bruce Monger, oceanography, has had a bit of bad luck with emails this semester. An incident Monday evening marked the second time this fall Monger has been impersonated in an email sent to students in his class — and this time, he has vowed to pursue all disciplinary actions at his disposal against the culprit.
After a student in his Introduction to Oceanography course accidentally cc’ed the entire class listserve on an email to Monger Monday, another student replied, also to the entire listserve, with a brief but scathing response. The sender signed the email “Bruce.”
Corey Hindin ’15 emailed Monger after he realized he had forgotten to answer the last five questions on his prelim earlier that day. In the email, he requested that he be permitted to take a set of make-up questions.
An hour later, Hindin and the rest of the class received a response from an unidentified recipient of the original email: “Mr. Hindin, What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. Bruce.”
The nearly 600 students enrolled in the course received his email, the full text of which comes directly from a quote from the 1995 Adam Sandler comedy Billy Madison.
Tuesday morning, Monger issued a response to the class in which he identified himself as “the real Bruce Monger” and strongly condemned what he called “last evening’s hateful message to a fellow student.”
“As for what will be done with the person who attacked Corey,” Monger wrote in the email, which was obtained by The Sun, “I will contact CIT this morning and ask for their assistance in identifying the attacker. If the attacker is still a Cornell student, I will file all possible academic integrity violation charges against the student. If the attacker is found guilty of any academic integrity violation, and is a student in the current oceanography class, I will fail the student immediately and expel them from the class.”
Furthermore, Monger said, he would support the University should it decide to expel the student from Cornell.
Hindin — who characterized himself as a “dedicated Adam Sandler/Billy Madison fan” — told The Sun Tuesday that he did not think the content of the response he received “was a big deal.”
“I laughed when I saw the reply, even when I thought it was actually Prof. Monger who sent it. Honestly, if there's one student in the class who would appreciate a professor dropping that line, it is me … I can appreciate a good reference,” Hindin said. “But at the same time, to quote Billy's response in the movie, ‘a simple 'wrong' would've done just fine.’”
Hindin said that he did not think drastic action needed to be taken against the email’s sender — “nobody should fail a class over a joke” — but said he would defer to Monger and the University in deciding how to proceed. While he said he did not consider the email a personal attack against him, he added that the impersonation of a professor was inappropriate.
“I think it is unacceptable to pose as someone else, and not very smart on the student's part to pretend to be a professor who was already involved in a situation where someone pretended to be him via email. Very unoriginal,” Hindin said. “I definitely think whoever sent the email owes Professor Monger an apology.”
Monger said he has changed his administrative email settings to require his approval on any messages sent over the Ocean-L listserve. He is also allowing Hindin to make up the questions he missed, according to his email to the class.
Monger will also meet with the Judicial Administrator’s Office to discuss the incident “in the context of the earlier incident involving a Jewish student in my class,” he told The Sun Tuesday.
The incident is the second this semester in which Monger has been impersonated in an attack on a student in Introduction to Oceanography.
Last month, Nicole Barel ’16 received a message from a recent alumnus that attacked her Jewish religion after she unintentionally sent an email to the wrong netID. Barel, who initially believed the reply she received had been written by Monger — the email was signed with his signature and the sender display name was altered to read “Bruce Monger” — it was quickly revealed that she had been duped.
“I think what is happening in the class is probably representative of a cross-section of the whole campus community,” Monger told The Sun Tuesday. “So this issue of harmful verbal attacks on students should probably be addressed at both the classroom and at the University level.”