Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cornell Prof Goes Nuts After Student Yawns in Class

Cornell Cornell Insider, Hotel Prof. Erupts: 'YAWN OUTSIDE!':

Most kids know from a young age not to sleep in class.  But if you’re in Professor Mark Talbert’s lecture hall, you better not even yawn.

A video has surfaced this past week of the Hotel Administration professor yelling at an unknown student in his Business Computing class (HADM 1174) for yawning, calling the perpetrator names and commanding them to leave.

“If I hear one more of these overly loud yawns… get up and walk the hell out! Yawn outside!” says an irate Talbert.  “Stay outta class, whatever it is you need to do to get over it, I wanna know why 220 other people don’t find the need to do that.  And you should be asking yourself, why am I the one loser who has to do that?”

When the serial yawner refuses to show himself, Talbert challenges the class to a psychological duel. “We’ll stay here until that person admits who it is or the person sitting around them tells me who it is,” he says. ...

Apparently, Talbert’s Business Computing class is the most stressful one in the Hotel School each semester it’s offered.  With last semester’s median grade of a B-, HADM 1174 obviously brings out the worst in everyone.

According to submissions on, a website used by students to anonymously comment on a course or instructor, Talbert has a reputation for off-color comments and outbursts.  His low rating of 2.2/5 comes from contributors saying that Talbert is “not helpful at all” and “extremely arrogant.” One person recalled a time when “he yelled at us for not saying ‘bless you’ after he sneezed,” and another said “he patrols the class like we are in 5th grade.”

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Anybody been in this lecture hall? He basically called the girl who said it was out in the hall a liar, but is it possible that's where it came from? I don't see how the fact that he'd heard it multiple times would preclude that. In any case, grossly unprofessional. I understand his frustration, but his behavior here is inappropriate. Also, it looks like he could set up the video system to catch the perp if he wanted to.

Posted by: J | Nov 16, 2010 5:23:31 PM

I teach business computing.


Posted by: Nedly | Nov 16, 2010 3:35:30 PM

I dunno. Seems like a back row individual in a class of 200(?) managed to forcibly enunciate a yawn to the front of the room.

There's a difference between being a little tired and thinking you're Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club.

I think the student just needed a laptop so s/he could play minesweeper and shop online.

Posted by: Guest | Nov 16, 2010 3:32:01 PM

I never experienced a professor freak out like this during my time at Cornell.

...but I studied engineering, so perhaps none of the professors were as overwhelmed by the gruellingly difficult material that pops up in Hotel School classes...

Posted by: TJIC | Nov 16, 2010 3:15:29 PM

Someone seems to forget that they work for the students, as much as the other way around. And that so long as what happens doesn't disrupt the class or learning experience for others (and no, his losing his cool doesn't count against the yawners' behavior, but against the professors') he really should just shut up and move on. His behavior was just as irresponsible and objectionable as whatever triggered him. Good teachers/instructors know how not to over-react and create "situations' out of nothing.

I'd think seriously about asking for my tuition money back for that class. Or demand an apology to the entire class.

That he urges someone act as a stoolpigeon is rather repugnant as well. He's encouraging deplorable behavior. What an unethical clown.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Nov 16, 2010 2:15:03 PM

If I were there, I'd organize a "mass yawn". Get 50 or so to all do it at a predeetermined time.

Posted by: Dr. K | Nov 16, 2010 1:20:36 PM

Mr. Talbert knows the difference between informal and impolite.

Posted by: wearingties? | Nov 16, 2010 12:38:29 PM

Maybe the professor who causes students to yawn should leave instead.

Posted by: mike livingston | Nov 16, 2010 12:34:30 PM

It is funny how power works it magic in the minds of some people. The petty tyrant will out when given the chance.

Posted by: George W | Nov 16, 2010 12:18:42 PM

What a di**. How does he keep his job?

Posted by: Yawner | Nov 16, 2010 11:30:20 AM