Michael Abram is the California college professor who is facing backlash after a video of him berating a hard-of-hearing student during a virtual class went viral. Another student recorded the interaction and posted it in three videos on TikTok. The video was later reshared on Reddit, Twitter and YouTube.
Abram teaches at Oxnard College, which is part of the Ventura County Community College District in southern California, according to his page on the faculty directory. He has been put on paid administrative leave, a VCCCD official confirmed to Heavy via email.
Heavy reached out to Abram for comment. We have not heard back.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Abram Accused the Student of Not Paying Attention & Suggested Her Translator Teach Her Instead
The first of three videos shared on TikTok on February 18 by @salwaabakar picks up in what appears to be the middle of a tense situation between the professor and one of the students. Abram is addressing the student, whom he addresses as Miss Salazar. He begins by forcefully declaring, “Miss Salazar, I’ve been talking to you, Miss Salazar.” She responds that she can hear him a “little bit.”
Abram answers, “You can hear me a little bit? Why didn’t you answer all the times I spoke to you then?” He adds a “thank you” in a sarcastic tone before instructing the student to email him so they can set up a separate zoom call and “have some real communication.” He adds that her counselor can join in on the call.
At this point, another student identified as Abygail speaks up in Salazar’s defense. She explains that it is difficult for Salazar to respond right away because she is hard of hearing and relies on a translator to help understand the class.
But Abram dismisses this explanation. “She’s not paying attention. She’s not trying. Are you her translator, Abygail?”
Abygail again tries to explain that the audio goes through Salazar’s hearing piece which can result in a delay. Abram then repeats his demand for Salazar’s counselor to get in touch with him because “you’ve got too much distraction to even understand what’s going on.”
Salazar denies this accusation. She answers that her translator is sitting next to her and “explaining everything that you’re saying said.” Abram responds by suggesting that Salazar’s translator just teach her the class instead of him before again accusing Salazar of not paying attention. “I see you laughing and smiling and giggling with somebody else.” Salazar responds that she is simply in a good mood.
In the third video, Abram repeats his request for Salazar’s counselor to talk to him. Salazar responds that she doesn’t have a problem with that, insists she is being respectful and accuses Abram of attacking her. Abram answers, “I’m not attacking you. I’m just significantly disappointed in you. That’s all. That’s all it is. I’m not attacking you.”
The clips show there were 40 people on the call during this interaction. As of this writing, the three videos have been viewed more than four million times on TikTok. The three videos were also compiled on YouTube and can be seen here.
2. The College Launched an Investigation as Students Called for Abram to be Fired
The videos have prompted outrage from students and viewers online. On TikTok and Twitter, commenters have shared email addresses and phone numbers for administrators and faculty members at Ventura. Some commenters encouraged others to get in touch with college staffers to complain about Abram.
Many have remarked that they feel Abram should be fired for how he treated Salazar. At least one woman who identified herself as an ASL teacher insisted in the TikTok comments that the “lag is real” because “interpreters have to wait until you reach the point of your sentence before they communicate what ur [sic] saying.” Others remarked that Abram’s handling of the situation was humiliating for Salazar and that he lacked empathy.
The college addressed the situation hours after the videos went viral. The news section of the college’s website includes the following statement without identifying Abram by name:
The Ventura County Community College District became aware of an incident with a faculty member at one of our colleges. The District is responding immediately and has initiated an investigation. VCCCD Board of Trustees and leadership at Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura colleges honor, respect and will protect the rights and challenges of everyone.
Heavy has reached out to VCCCD’s director of public affairs and marketing to request more information. As of this writing, we had not yet heard back. According to the Ventura County Star, Abram is a tenured faculty member. He was placed on paid leave as the college investigates.
3. Abram Teaches Physiology & Has Been Associated With the Community College For About 20 Years
The Ventura County Community College District has three separate colleges, according to the institution’s website: Moorpark College, Oxnard College, and Ventura College.
Abram teaches human physiology and human anatomy, according to his faculty profile listed under the “District” tab.
There is also a separate page under the Oxnard College tab that explains the biology courses offered at the college and instructs students to contact Abram about the program. The contact information is the same on both pages but Abram is identified as a doctor on the Oxnard College page.
The Ventura County Star, citing college officials, reported Abram has been working there for about 20 years. Oxnard College President Luis Sanchez told the newspaper that he felt the video of the Zoom call was “alarming” and shared that he “woke up this morning to a flood of email.”
4. VCCCD Faculty Are Instructed to ‘Avoid Any Exploitation, Harassment or Discriminatory Treatment of Students’
The investigation launched at the Ventura County Community College District will likely focus on whether Abram violated the institution’s code of conduct. The code of ethics faculty members are expected to follow at VCCCD includes the following language:
As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students. They hold before them the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline. Professors demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors. Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit. They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student. They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students. They acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from them. They protect their academic freedom.
The organization also includes on its website that VCCCD “will not tolerate any behavior that constitutes unlawful harassment of staff, students, or visitors.”
5. Abram Is a Licensed Chiropractor, California Records Suggest
A search of online records suggests that in addition to teaching community college, Abrams has also maintained an active chiropractor license.
According to the Board of Chiropractic Examiners for the State of California, there is a “Michael Wolfe Abram” who has been licensed to practice since 1997. The doctor has an Oxnard, California, address, which is located in Ventura County.
Abram was listed as a doctor on the Oxnard College website. But Abram’s profile on VCCCD does not indicate whether he actively practices medicine or if the title stems from another type of doctoral degree.
According to a ZoomInfo profile associated with Abram, on which he was described as a “Professor of Biological Sciences at Oxnard College,” Abram earned an undergraduate degree from UC Santa Barbara.