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Masked man on UNG campus turns out to be female professor doing research

DAHLONEGA — To University of North Georgia students at the Dahlonega campus, fear not: someone in a Ronald Reagan mask lurking in the bushes is simply a professor doing research about birds.

A call came into campus police at 10:36 a.m. Monday regarding a suspicious man wearing a mask, a Hawaiian shirt and khaki pants in the bushes near Owen Hall. A camera, according to the report, was strapped to his chest.

The lookout was canceled after it was determined to be female faculty member Janice Crook-Hill.

She and the 21 students of her ornithology class are studying whether mockingbirds can recognize faces.

“Apparently, somebody saw me approaching one of the nests this morning when I was wearing a mask and so reported it as seeming suspicious, which I can see why it would have seemed suspicious,” she said Monday afternoon.

For consistency’s sake, she and her students use a Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton mask when approaching the nests.

“So rather than scary monsters, we’re trying to get something that looks pretty much like human faces,” Crook-Hill said. “So, of course, politician masks are the ones that are readily available.”

Crook-Hill, who clarified she was wearing a floral shirt and had binoculars, not a camera, said the research focuses on facial recognition as a perceived threat. The results have been mixed so far.

“We want to see if they are recognizing a specific individual who has previously posed a threat and they only respond really aggressively to that person or if they respond just to any human after they’ve been sort of harrassed,” Crook-Hill said.