A week after mathematics professor John McCarthy had an apparent meltdown in front of his students, mathematics department chair and professor Yang Wang said the professor’s condition is improving after an outpouring of support from colleagues and students.
McCarthy was well enough to issue an apology to his students Wednesday evening, just two days after he took off his clothes and shouted profanities at students in the Engineering Building.
University officials still have not indicated whether McCarthy will return to teaching at some point.
“The incident that occurred Monday was unfortunate,” McCarthy said in the email, provided to The State News by a student in his class. “Although I do not remember what happened, I have been told that I may have caused distress among my students during Monday’s class. For this I am truly sorry.”
The story of McCarthy taking off his clothes and screaming profanities in the halls of the Engineering Building last Monday afternoon spread across the country.
Even before McCarthy’s letter was sent, his students made him cards expressing concern for his well-being, Wang said in an email interview with The State News.
While Wang delivered the cards Wednesday with colleagues from the mathematics department, McCarthy asked him to forward a message of apology to his students.
“When I showed him the cards signed by his students wishing him well, he was very much moved by this outpouring of support,” Wang said in the email.
Although Wang expressed gratitude for the support students and colleagues showed McCarthy, he still was concerned about the way some people made jokes about the incident.
“An incident like this often teaches us who we are and what we represent,” Wang said. “I hope we can all use what transpired after this incident to reflect on our values and our role as members of an institution that strives to be among the best of the world.”
Wang said McCarthy currently is on medical leave.
He did not comment on when or if the department plans to bring him back once he has recovered, but said he is filled with overriding concern for McCarthy’s well-being.
McCarthy’s email to students:
The incident that occurred Monday was unfortunate. Although I do not remember what happened, I have been told that I may have caused distress among my students during Monday’s class. For this I am truly sorry.
I believe that, during the semester, some of my words may have been taken literally and hence misinterpreted. I assure you that in these cases I was merely presenting philosophical dilemmas and nothing more.
Your education and well-being is and always has been my number one priority. So at this point it seems best that another instructor take over this class for the remainder of the semester.
I would like to thank all of you for the support and concern that you have expressed during the past few days and I wish you much success in this class and in all future academic pursuits.
John D. McCarthy