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USyd lecturer shouts and swears at student in elaborate hoax

A controversial Snapchat clip was revealed to be a shock value psychology experiment

Screenshot of a PSYC3017 lecture recording. The caption says "watch till the end with the volume up" and "when the lecturer absolutely loses his shit HAHAHAHA"

A video of a USyd psychology lecturer swearing at a student has circulated on Facebook and Snapchat, after it was captured on a recorded lecture. However, the 45 second snippet fails to acknowledge that the entire exchange was in fact a hoax.

The playback, from 12 March, hears Dr Ilan Dar-Nimrod berate an unidentified student after their phone rang during his lecture.

Speaking on the topic of ‘meaning threats’ at the time, the prominent psychology lecturer halts the class after being interrupted mid-sentence by a student’s phone ringing.

“You have no idea what it is to stand here,” he starts. “You stand here, you talk with people, you have this train of thought, and then fuckers like you just have their phone ring as if it’s nothing.”

He proceeds to ask if the student would “try” standing in his position and questions whether they are “an idiot” for not turning off their device.

Video credit: Unknown.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? You’re looking at me, answer. You can’t talk? Really? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

According to students, Dar-Nimrod specifically requested in his first lecture that the class switch off their phones. In the past, when a phone did happen to ring, he would only pause in response.

The clip ends with the lecturer continuing where he left off with his material. What it doesn’t show is Dar-Nimrod himself calling the student or the reveal that followed.

“I’ve done this demonstration for [six] years now, and I still have students coming to me years later, not only with clear memory of the demonstration, but also with memory of the theory discussed because of this experience,” he said.

PSYC3017’s Social Psychology unit works on a rotating lecturer basis. Dar-Nimrod’s material for Week 3 explored a contrast between controlled behaviours and subversions of normal action, specifically focusing on the “meaningful, surprising reactions” that come out of people having their expectations violated.

He explains that his outburst was a staged event in collaboration with a volunteer student, who he says was “more than a willing aid.” The exercise is intended to teach students to relate to and understand the sense of unease explored by the phenomenon he was teaching.

Whilst no “unwilling/uninformed student is ever targeted,” other students in the class were indirectly affected as well.

Megan, a third year psychology student, was left rattled by the learning experience. She describes feeling “uncomfortable due to my own past trauma around aggressive yelling, and I also felt really sorry for the student that was being attacked.”

Dar-Nimrod explained to Honi that the demonstration was followed by an immediate debriefing where the staging and use of a volunteer were revealed.

However, Megan believes it wasn’t that explicit. “He didn’t clearly explain in the lecture that the student was in on it. He just asked for a round of applause for the student after,” she says.

“I understood the purpose of the display after it was explained, but I felt that there was a lot of other ways that Ilan could have demonstrated the theory he was teaching us about without causing any distress for students,” she says.

The social media clip decontexualises the class and frames it as a humorous and spontaneous event. While Megan acknowledges that there was some laughter from other students on the day, she struggles to see it as comedic.

“I emailed Ilan after telling him how it affected me and he replied saying [I was] the first student to ever have an issue with it,” she continues. “Which I found hard to believe, but maybe if a lot of people are sharing it as a joke then it might be true.”

Dar-Nimrod was unaware that any part of his lecture was shared online.

“[It is just] like if someone says ‘I don’t believe that Senator Anning was right’ and a recording of the sentence will drop the beginning of it,” he says.

“Like anything out-of-context, it does [a] disservice to the communicator and it is unfortunate.”