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University working on ‘prevention plan’ after professor says n-word in academic context


Used a trigger warning first

A white professor used the n-word in a class discussion on “feminism and the power that certain words hold,” according to a student newspaper. The faculty member gave a trigger warning before using the slur and another word that “could be considered offensive.”

What’s the result of this incident, other than students taking offense? We don’t know yet.

“Our goal is to work collaboratively towards a resolution and prevention plan that recognizes the concerns and experiences of our students and supports the discussion of difficult knowledge,” Montreal’s Concordia University told The Concordian.

While the report Thursday says the university has already implemented a “Black Perspectives Office” and a “Task Force on Anti-Black Racism,” the wording of Concordia’s statement suggests that faculty will be subject to either explicit or implied restrictions on what they can say in class, regardless of the context of their words.

A university spokesperson declined to answer College Fix questions about the nature of the “resolution and prevention plan,” how faculty will be involved in the development of the plan, and whether the professor is under investigation or has already been subject to adverse action.

Concordia “cannot share specific information about a member of our community whether it’s a current or former student, faculty member or staff,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

The newspaper interviewed Black Student Union leaders and two students who “came forward” to complain about the professor, but mentions no attempt to interview the professor, whose identity is being withheld “to avoid any ill-treatment.”

MORE: Prof fired for mentioning n-word must undergo re-education to get job back

The Concordian shows its viewpoint in a news article by putting scare quotes around the phrase “academic context” and referring to this concept as “armour” that professors deploy when students criticize their manner of pedagogy.

Pierrette Manege confronted the professor in the class chat for using the slur “fully as a white woman,” and Amanda Asomani-Nyarko agreed, saying it wasn’t the first time she had heard a professor use the n-word in class:

Reflecting on this particular incident, [Asomani-Nyarko] said, “I was numb, and then my numbness turned into anger, and then confusion as to why this is happening. And then I wanted to say something, but then I also felt like, they’re gonna think I’m just being sensitive or the angry Black woman, you know?”

The professor became “visibly uncomfortable” when coming across the two students’ comments about the pedagogical use of the slur, and “decided to justify her use of that word,” Manege said.

BSU President Amaria Phillips claims that the n-word can’t be used in an academic context:

It’s still used now, in this day and age against Black people, to demean them and to hurt them. […] Why not just say “the N-word”…. I don’t understand why you have to pronounce the whole word.

Using the word in any context makes black students “feel unsafe in classrooms,” the Concordian paraphrased Phillips.

The university spokesperson told The Fix that the Black Perspectives Office and Task Force on Anti-Black Racism, which launched last year, have been “essential in fostering dialogue, understanding and collective engagement”:

Many of our departments have started discussions around addressing systemic racism and organized trainings towards inclusive classrooms, and while we wait for the recommendations of the Task Force, we are proactively organizing opportunities for students and faculty to share their experiences and expectations around these issues and to give them the tools and strategies to do so within a respectful environment.

Read the report.

UPDATE: A university spokesperson responded to a Fix query after this post was published. Her comments have been added.

MORE: Students ‘appalled’ that professors defend using n-word in academic context

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.