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History prof who said n-word while reading historical document prompts new outrage at OU

Faculty now required to attend diversity training

For the second time in less than two weeks, the University of Oklahoma is facing controversy after a professor said the n-word in class.

In this latest incident, a history professor read from a historical document that used the n-word repeatedly, according to a statement released Monday by the university’s interim president Joseph Harroz Jr.

“While she could have made the point without reciting the actual word, she chose otherwise. Her issuance of a ‘trigger warning’ before her recitation does not lessen the pain caused by the use of the word,” Harroz wrote.

“For students in the class, as well as members of our community, this was another painful experience. It is common sense to avoid uttering the most offensive word in the English language, especially in an environment where the speaker holds the power.”

The professor has not been identified.

The incident comes on the heels of another OU professor using the n-word in a different context. In that case, a journalism professor compared “OK, boomer” to the n-word. That professor, Peter Gade, apologized and has stepped down for the rest of the semester and agreed to attend racial sensitivity courses.

But now that will be a requirement of all faculty, according to Harroz’s statement:

After the incident that occurred less than two weeks ago, we immediately began working on a number of action steps. The first is a new required diversity, equity, and inclusion training regimen for all OU faculty, staff, and administration to complete. This training will address our implicit bias, it will force us to consider our words and actions and the implications that follow, and more. While students already engage in this type of training, for the first time our faculty and staff will be required to participate as well.

We are also developing an incident response protocol, that quickly employs culturally restorative justice practices designed to create a pathway to reconciliation through education and the changing of behavior. We will be providing more details on these and other action steps in the near future, and we will continue to engage thought leaders among our student body, faculty, staff, and alumni to ensure we address this boldly, honestly, and with clear eyes. While it is unfortunate that another incident would occur before we could roll out this action plan, we are resolute in addressing these matters with decisive action. It is our responsibility to ensure that OU fulfills its promise to lead in bringing society closer together.

The University of Oklahoma is not the only campus dealing with this issue.

The New School launched an investigation against a Pulitzer Prize finalist for quoting black author James Baldwin in class, but exonerated her after facing a national outcry. And Emory University is trying to fire a professor for appealing his suspension over referring to the n-word in a class discussion on a civil rights case.

MORE: Expert says prof’s in-class ‘N-word’ comparison may not be protected speech

MORE: Judge stops UConn from punishing students for yelling n-word in a parking lot

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.