Brookdale Community College Professor Creating Hostile Learning Environment for Students

By Faye Higbee

There appears to be a serious problem with a Sociology professor named Howard Finkelstein at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. How would it feel to be in a college class that is required for a degree, if the professor spent from 30 minutes to an hour of each class berating the students, their beliefs, or their ethnicity in front of everyone? How would it feel if you were a veteran and the professor continually baited you about your service, disagreeing and trying to make you lose it over everything you believe in? And what if you were black and just wanted to learn something in the class and the professor kept going back to tired, wornout issues as well as using the “n” word to try to force you to a make a statement about it at least 5 times over two different classes? Yes, that’s really happening in this professor’s classes.

Unprofessional, Hostile Learning Environment

Howard Finkelstein has managed to alienate many of his students to the point that some have actually quit the class after a few months. Others feel that they are stuck there because of requirements and they aren’t happy about it. We spoke with a few of the students in this professor’s classes. One of them, Christopher Lyle, told us that he is being belittled and berated on a regular basis by Finkelstein. Christopher is a white male conservative -apparently something that Finkelstein hates. The class is required for Christopher’s History degree.

Another student confirmed that the professor is literally disrespecting Christopher and others daily. In these two videos, you can hear Finkelstein slam his hand down in the desk and yell “F*** your life” after Christopher responds to a question in a manner that the instructor doesn’t agree with. The conversation was about sexual harassment, and the teacher’s wrong belief that it only happens to females because “this is a male dominated society.”

“The professor that sucks”

A student told us that on several occasions the professor has told students who disagreed with him to “Shut the f*** up” and demanded they sit in silence without saying anything at all.

At least two students told us that Finkelstein told a girl from Pakistan that her skin looked “soft” and asked her if there was any “tension” that she needed to relieve. Is that “sexual harassment?”

Joey Smith, a black student in the class, remarked to us that the class “discussions” all seem to be the same: “white privilege” is often the topic. He stated that Finkelstein used the “n” word 5 times over 2 classes, in an attempt to force him to comment.  If someone fails to agree with a topic, the professor “wastes another 10-15 minutes.” He told us that he feels like he’s hasn’t learned anything in the class since it began. He said that anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour in every class is wasted by the professor ragging on people he doesn’t like. The class runs from 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m..

“I’m paying for this class and haven’t learned anything. We don’t come here to get counseled by someone on our beliefs or life. And having him down talk everyone is frustrating. What am I paying for? He also doesn’t even use his own material for homework – he’ll hand us a packet of things that were printed off the internet or make us watch a YouTube video that he didn’t create. We can google our own information.” Joey

Baiting Veterans

Then there’s the veterans. Finkelstein doesn’t like the military and treats veterans disrespectfully by baiting them. And that can become a problem if someone doesn’t have a good support system at home.

So you’re murdering people?” has been his common baiting tactic. One of the veterans we spoke with said he had to work hard to hold himself in check. Other veterans have simply withdrawn from the class to keep from reacting. Veterans who have to drop the class are subject to repayment for it, whether it is under the Post 9-11 GI Bill or another. Most of them just want to go forward with their lives, and this professor is putting up a roadblock.

Veterans have willingly put their lives on the line for people they don’t even know. They come home and the war continues with a professor like this deliberately pushing on someone’s emotions.

“This professor is having a negative impact on veterans. He is supposed to be educating… And we need to take care of each other. I tell my fellow veterans that we need to use this as a life lesson, to move on and get help if they need it.”

The veteran told us that the vast majority of instructors at the school have been great. And the Veteran’s Services Department has been supportive as well. But the school administration was not helpful in any way, and this particular instructor, Howard Finkelstein, has been “challenging.”

Anti-guns too

Christopher Jeune, Manager of Student Conduct and Compliance pulled Christopher Lyle out of class on Thursday to threaten him with the loss of his legally acquired guns. This, too, was baiting, baiting to try to get him in trouble for simply being a gun owner.

Jeune: “I heard you own guns is that true?

Yes what does that have to do with anything?” Christopher told them he owns three guns.

Jeune:  “I can’t sleep at night knowing what’s going on and hearing you’re a gun owner. I want to make sure you’re not going to harm us. It’s impossible to keep us safe.

Christopher: “Every gun I own is legal. What does that have to do with anything? Are you going to try and spin this around now because I’m a legal gun owner? That’s my second amendment right and if you don’t like it that’s too bad.”

Jeune: “I was thinking of doing a mental evaluation. Will you be willing to have a meeting on Tuesday?”

Christopher responded: “Absolutely here’s my lawyer’s information. He will be joining us from here on out.”

And there you have it- is Howard Finkelstein really ‘qualified’ to teach? Since he uses material from the internet that has just been printed off and handed to the students, we’re beginning to wonder. We attempted to locate a bio on him, but found none.

According to the school website, they view ownership of guns as “criminal behavior.” And attempting to cause this student to be labeled as “mentally ill” in order to remove his legal guns is despicable.  The professor and the Manager of Student Conduct and Compliance have violated every single rule that is laid out for students to obey. What about instructors and admin who do these things?

“Harassment, intimidation and bullying of any person are prohibited. Harassment, intimidation or bullying includes any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents that is reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by another distinguishing characteristic that takes place on College Premises or at any function sponsored by the College, that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the College or the rights of other students and that:

a. a reasonable person will know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or damage to his property; or

b. has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; or

c. Creates a hostile educational environment for the student by interfering with a student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student.”