An Ivy League professor ruffled his student’s feathers by repeatedly using the N-word in a lecture.
According to The Root, Princeton students walked out of the course titled “Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy and Pornography” after their teacher said “ni**er” several times in a lecture on oppressive symbolism.
The Daily Princetonian, the university’s daily newspaper, reported that professor Lawrence Rosen asked his class, “What is worse: a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a ni**er?”
“He was describing what is acceptable as free speech and what is not,” student Devyn Holliday recounted.
However, Rosen allegedly used the word at least two more times following that first question.
Students spoke up in class before choosing to walk out, but Rosen doubled down on his remarks.
According to Holliday, one student, E. Jeremijenko-Conley, who identifies as white, told Rosen, “I’m not comfortable with a white professor using the N-word.” Fellow student Malachi Byrd purportedly asked the educator, “So are you just going to keep using the N-word?”
Rosen’s response to the students was, “Yes, if I think it’s necessary.” That answer is what led to Byrd and three other students choosing to exit the class.
The professor defended his use of the word by claiming, “It’s supposed to deliver a gut punch, so that’s why I used it.”
“Every single time he used the N-word, he used the word in its entirety,” said student Destiny Salter. “He said, ‘You need to suspend your disbelief for the sake of this class.’”
Rosen refused to apologize and stood behind his use of the offensive slur.
“I don’t think I need to apologize; I did not oppress anyone,” he said.
The entire ordeal was so unsettling that one student, Kevin Ramos, said he is considering dropping the course entirely.
“The professor saw how uncomfortable the students were with his language,” he said. “If he doesn't respect the students’ opinion, then it’s not worth learning from him.”
While the name of the course indicates that discourse is expected, and it’s evident that the professor was intentionally trying to get a rise out of his students, he took the effort much too far.
Upon realizing that his lesson was triggering real emotions in his students, he should have shifted gears. He failed to effectively convey the message of his lecture because instead of getting a point across he, quite frankly, just pissed people off.
And although he may not have personally oppressed anyone, casually and unapologetically using oppressive language is still a problem.
Rosen should have tread much more lightly with this conversation, especially during the current climate in which race relations are extremely tense. There are high expectations for an educator of his caliber, and in this moment, he failed to live up to them.
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