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Campus in turmoil after some people reference a racial slur

‘Community dialogue’ held to address word usage

Numerous students at one of Syracuse University’s overseas locations were greatly upset recently when several community members referenced a racial slur without censoring it. The school elected to hold a “community dialogue” in response to the controversy, and one professor announced he was changing his course reading list because of it.

Students at Syracuse’s Madrid program “[came] forward to the center’s administration with concerns about the use of the N-word during classroom assignments and discussions,” The Daily Orange reports.

There is no evidence that anyone used the word “nigger” in a racist or targeted way, according to the paper’s report.

Rather, several individuals simply referred to the word when reading from texts or recounting past experiences:

During a sexuality in Spain class last Tuesday, an American SU student said the N-word while recounting a high school experience of a boy would who would use the the N-word, according to junior Nileidy De la Cruz, a member of the class. In a class about travel journalism last Monday, a professor asked students to read aloud a passage from “The Great Railway Bazaar” by Paul Theroux, said De la Cruz, who is also a member of that class. According to De la Cruz, an American SU student in the class said the N-word aloud while reading the passage…

[I]n a separate class on the history of women in Spain, a Spanish professor was trying to explain the differences between the inoffensive Spanish word sometimes used to describe black people in the country, “negro,” and the N-word, but then said the N-word twice, according to junior Tyra Jean, who is in the class. Jean added that a student in that class also repeated the word once.

The director of the Madrid program, Dieter Kuehl, said that the “utterance” of the word was “deeply harmful,” though he did not clarify how simply speaking the word harmed anyone on the campus.

In response to the controversy, the school held a “community dialogue” at which “students were encouraged to ask questions and share how they felt about the use of the N-word in classes.” At that event, Kuehl said that the school “denounce[s] racial slurs such as the ‘N-word’ absolutely and unequivocally.”

At the dialogue in question, the program’s Director of Student Life told the crowd that she “has never encountered events like these and doesn’t know how to handle them.”

In an email to the campus, Kuehl told the community that the school would be creating a “student task force” and “hosting experts on diversity and inclusion from SU’s Main Campus” in response to the usage of the word. Another professor said of the text in which the racial slur was located that he “wouldn’t assign the reading anymore.”

Read the report here.

MORE: Black law professor: It’s a ‘farce’ to punish faculty for quoting n-word

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