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Simon addresses math professor’s breakdown

October 2, 2012


For MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, an incident Monday brings in to question the impact and role of social media.

At the Steering Committee meeting Tuesday, the conversation turned to mathematics professor John McCarthy, which students said he had a mental breakdown during a class Monday. He was taken into custody by MSU police after stripping naked and walking the halls of the Engineering Building, ranting and yelling.

Simon said this situation has reached the national level, in part because of social media.

“The complication of social media, with everyone with a camera and a cell phone, is one that we continue to struggle with in terms of information because the event would not, under (normal) circumstances, trigger one set of alerts,” Simon said. “There’s also the need for more crisp communication about what the outcome was. Whether that would have controlled some of the rumors, tweets and other things, I’m not quite sure.”

Students in the class used social media during and after the incident. One photo showing the professor naked in the hallway went viral, making it to the top of Reddit.

Simon addressed the photograph of the professor online as a change in ethics for this generation.
“What is viewed as OK, photographs, texts has changed dramatically and we need to be able to adapt to them,” Simon said. “It’s a different standard than what we would have been in a different time past, and we just need to be better about it.”

Simon said the situation was one she wishes could have been avoided altogether.

“There’s no question about it, it was disturbing — it was disturbing for the set of people who were there, (and) it was disturbing in terms of the way in which it portrayed the individual and the institution,” Simon said.

Simon said the university will come out with a report on an assessment of the situation, including looking at the 9-1-1 calls made and what officers could have done differently.

“After all is said and done, the main thing is that the individual is in a position to be cared for,” Simon said.

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