Nearly a week has passed since adjunct professor Daniel Mashburn’s odd actions in his astronomy classroom at Tarrant County College caused his students to flee and call campus police, and he’s still not sure why everyone freaked out. He says he was just trying to make learning fun.
“One of my adjuncts told me I was The Law in the classroom, but the students rose up and called the lawman on me for comparing creation as it relates to astronomy with the Bible and the Quran,” Mashburn told the Observer via Facebook message.
It was cold outside last Tuesday, and Mashburn planned to take his students outside to view the stars. He continued to wear his scarf, ball cap and toboggan glasses and turned off the lights after he arrived about 15 minutes late to class (which isn’t unusual for a professor). Students told local news outlets that he was acting strange, speaking in incoherent phrases about President Donald Trump and fidgeting with something in his pocket.
“I was in class for about five minutes,” one student told KDFW-TV (Fox 4) news. “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.”
Most of Mashburn’s students joined her. Mashburn told the campus newspaper, The Collegian, that he felt wronged by students because they only have to pay a “measly fee” for the knowledge and wisdom that he shares. “I like to keep it dark because I wanted to go out and see the stars,” he told the paper last week.
Mashburn is originally from Athens, Tennessee, according to his Facebook profile, and he worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before coming to Texas. According to a Facebook post, he’d attempted to include Islam in his teaching there until two men he didn’t identify “shined a gun into my home.”
When Tarrant County Community College police showed up to question him, Mashburn kept his face covered. He didn’t have a weapon in his pocket, just a cellphone. Mashburn said he washes his hands and face several times a day as directed by the Quran and tries to keep them covered.
“Many people do not show their faces,” he told a KDFW-TV news reporter who showed up to his apartment. “And in many countries, they do not show their faces.”
“Well, here in America, we tend to usually show our face when we are a professor at a college,” the reporter replied. “That’s typically the standard.”
“But I do not answer to your standard,” Mashburn answered. “I am not a Christian. I am not a Jew. I’m a Muslim.”
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This was Mashburn’s second semester to teach at Tarrant County Community College. He told the Observer he felt students weren’t focused on the PowerPoint presentations he’d been relying on in class, and the excessive homework and testing also didn’t help.
“Learning should be fun,” he said. “It should open your mind to new ways and means of learning.”
Mashburn also worked as a full-time tutor of math, physics and astronomy, but he’s been suspended from both positions after news of his behavior spread.
“I have been unfairly targeted,” he said. “They think I seek to radicalize, perhaps? ... Lots of people read the Quran, why does no one report on them?”