Professor uses N Word


White professor suspended after encouraging students to use N-word in Zoom class

The instructor has been placed on paid leave.


Onaje McDowelle


A professor at Duquesne University in Pennsylvania has been placed on paid leave after repeatedly using the N-word and encouraging students to do so as well in a virtual class meeting.

Video of the incident recorded by an unknown student spread across Twitter on Friday.

In the video, the white professor, now identified as English professor Gary Shank, can be heard explaining why the word will be tolerable in his class despite its historical context.

“I’m giving you permission to use the word, OK? Because we’re using the word in a pedagogical sense,” he says, speaking over a slide that defines race “from a cultural sense” as “based on perceived physical differences.”

He continues, asking the class, “What’s the one word about race that we’re not allowed to use?” After a moment of silence from students, he says “I’ll give you a hint. It starts with N.”

After students continue not to respond, he goes on saying, “Again, I’m not using it in any way other than to demonstrate a point.” After stating the slur, he says that when he was a “young man,” the word was commonly used. After the N-word, he asks students whether it would be appropriate to use the word today, to which students respond “absolutely not.”

Within minutes, multiple students had reported the incident to administration via email. It is reported that Duquesne’s School of Education Dean Gretchen Generett sent a letter to students addressing the issue and extending her “sincerest apologies” shortly thereafter.

“To be clear, I believe that there is never a time, pedagogically or otherwise, for a professor to create a hostile learning environment… Using the ‘N word’ or seemingly encouraging students to use that word is not in keeping with the mission of the University, the School of Education, or the Pennsylvania Department of Education,” Generett wrote.

“Duquesne takes very seriously our work in creating an inclusive environment,” the university wrote in a later statement.

Shank has been suspended from teaching and now faces an investigation from the university. Another instructor will reportedly take over teaching the course as the investigation ensues, according to WTAE.

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