Former physics professor Dr. Thomas Brennan was fired in 2021 following a series of migraines, alleged harassment and conspiratorial tweets. Today, he works as a line cook in Big Rapids.
Who was Ferris’ “nutty professor?”
Brennan became an infamous Ferris figure early in the COVID-19 pandemic. As he put it, he fell into the “nutty professor stereotype.” His controversial views were first shared with a large group of faculty during a 2020 Zoom meeting for the College of Arts and Sciences. To the concern of several colleagues, Brennan stated in the chat that “the pandemic and riots are a leftist stunt to overthrow the United States government and destroy our [civil] liberties.”
A Twitter account with the handle @ThomasB57121856 was discovered with numerous Tweets including racial slurs, COVID-19 pandemic denial and homophobic language. This led to Brennan being placed on administrative leave for several months before his ultimate firing in February 2021.
Though the story made national headlines, Brennan declined offers to speak directly with the Torch and other news outlets. He posted a six-page defense to his personal website following his release from the University.
“My defense is that I was acting out and speaking out of despair caused by a personal crisis involving extremely painful migraines, [electromagnetic field] sensitivity and a series of repeated break-ins into my home,” he wrote.
With Brennan’s Twitter account deactivated, there have been few updates on the life of the problematic professor. It is understood that Brennan was in contact with Barry Mehler, another Ferris professor who made national news, earlier this year.
This was the end of Brennan’s story until halfway through this summer, when he personally reached out to the Torch. After our editor-in-chief denied Brennan’s request to remove previous coverage from the Torch website, Brennan asked to share the story himself.
COVID-19 Conspiracies and Race: A barge full of clowns
One Torch reader referred to Brennan as a “QAnon conspiracist” in the comments of a previous story, referring to the far-right political conspiracy movement. Brennan offered an illustrative look into his mind and the source of his online “babbling.”
“There’s this thing I call the river of ideas and stuff flowing down [it],” Brennan said. “Sometimes you get a weird barge that has clowns on it. You’ve got to usually just ignore those clown barges… Don’t yell. It’s no big deal. But because of what felt like brain trauma, I just decided to just say whatever.”
These headaches, security concerns and the belief that Brennan’s social contract had been broken in some way, opened the floodgates for countless metaphorical clowns.
“If everything’s going fine, and society is respecting my rights and not breaking in my house or whatever, trying to inject me with something, I’m not going to say the N word,” Brennan said.
In June of 2019, Brennan went to the hospital multiple times to get an x-ray for strange, pulsing migraines. He entered a panicked state because he felt like his “head was exploding.”
“I blabbed and babbled a lot [at the hospital]. ‘What’s going on? Do I have a microchip in my head?’ I didn’t actually believe that,” Brennan said.
While his microchip comments may have been nothing more than a stray clown, per se, what Brennan now attributes his headaches to is still outside the mainstream. Radio frequency sensitivity to wireless internet, he explained, severely affected his health. He described feeling intense heat coming from his cell phone, and traumatic migraines from spending time on campus.
“I had some equipment, a spectrum analyzer,” Brennan said. “I was able to make measurements of the RF levels on campus, and they’re extraordinarily high. The RF levels on campus are about a million times stronger than they are if you go off into the Canadian Lakes in the forest where I live.”
Migraines were not the only risk of excessive WiFi usage, according to Brennan. On July 29, 2020, he responded to a Tweet with, “It is partly because the homeless don’t have smartphones—the main cause of COVID symptoms I think.”
Before Brennan took to Twitter, he regretfully “babbled” to a Ferris Department of Public Safety Officer.
Late in the fall of 2019, Brennan was deeply concerned about his home security. After noticing that the security rods kept in his windows had been moved multiple times, Brennan divulged to DPS that he believed someone was breaking into his house. This led to a wellness check, which he passed. His relationship with administration did not receive the same bill of health.
“It felt like I was being harassed, somehow,” Brennan said. “At least, I didn’t get any sympathy. I got myself in trouble with the administration.”
Brennan did not feel that his complaints about his health, home security or the pandemic were ever taken seriously. He wishes he could have been put on sabbatical when his issues began. Instead, by consistently “babbling” to the wrong people, he made himself Ferris’ “pariah.”
In Brennan’s words, he “babbled” and found that scientists who share ideas “not accepted as mainstream” encounter “persecution sites.” He continues to defend his comments about potentially harmful vaccines, nanotechnology and RF sensitivity from cell phones. His defenses are weaker when asked how his scientific views and frustrations were at all related to his usage of racial or homophobic slurs.
“That alt-right extremism that seems connected to racism and conspiracy theory,” Brennan said. “I know that’s a stereotype that exists. It’s a meme… I don’t know what that means. I know what you’re saying, but I don’t know what that was. [That] is all I can say.”
Where is he now?
Today, Brennan works as a line cook for a Big Rapids restaurant which he chose not to name. He would like to one day work in his field of science again.
His previous problems, migraines and security issues, have subsided. He partially attributes this to his quiet life in Canadian Lakes, far from Ferris’ radiation-rich campus. If his problems do return, he plans to avoid repeating history with better communication between himself and his employers.
Search “Brennan” on our website to read our initial coverage of Brennan’s tumultuous final year at Ferris.