What began as breakfast among friends turned into a televised lesson on kindness from Professor Schikler, of Nanuet, New York, who intervened on behalf of a hearing-impaired customer facing discrimination and verbal abuse from a waiter. As it turned out, Schikler became the star of ABC’s hidden-camera reality television show “What Would You Do?” by lecturing the waiter on tolerance. The show, which springs ethical dilemmas on unknowing guests, seeks to capture moments of humanity unvarnished by the glow of attention or visibility.
In Schikler’s case, without realizing the hidden cameras, she spoke to a restaurant manager about the waiter’s behavior. When the waiter came back to Schikler’s table to ask her why she involved a manager, she said, “it is not in my nature to let something like that go … never has been and never will be. What was going through my mind was a combination of anger and disbelief. The waiter’s words, tone of voice and demeanor went beyond disrespect. He was cruel. That, above all else was a definite no-no.
“I encourage people to choose the right thing when you can or you see someone being mistreated,” Schikler, who overcame a juvenile learning disability to become an educator, said.
When news correspondent John Quiñones, the actors and camera crew emerged from behind the scenes, Schikler and Krikun, of Nyack, New York, gasped.
“I am not an avid TV watcher, so I had no idea this show existed,” Krikun, who teaches music, said. “It was an incredible coincidence that this event happened on the same day that we were celebrating Elin’s retirement. She had just finished her last day on campus. But during this difficult circumstance, she handled herself with the same poise and determination that made her such a dynamic educator.”
Schikler served as professor of communication at Bergen for 29 years and chair of the communication department for eight years. Schikler holds a B.A. and M.A. in the disciplines of speech and theatre from Lehman College.
“What a way to go,” she said. “My last day at Bergen, breakfast with a friend and being a reality ‘star’ for a few minutes. Being on the show was an amazing experience, even more so when I realized it was a set-up. The calls and texts I got from friends, family and people I had not seen or spoken to in years was heart-warming. Their agreement and support for what I said reminded me that there are many good, sensitive people around.”
To watch the “What Would You Do?” episode featuring the Bergen professors, visit here: https://youtu.be/1wiuwkRtZVk?t=144.
Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (www.bergen.edu), a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 14,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.
photo caption: Elin Schikler and Andy Krikun, Ph.D.