Students Call for White University of Kansas Professor to Be Fired After She Uses N-Word in Class Discussion About Racism
Meg Wagner, NY Daily News, November 21, 2015
A white professor who used the n-word during a lecture about racism on college campuses was placed on paid leave after her students filed a complaint against her.
Andrea Quenette, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, must stay off campus as the school investigates, she told the Lawrence Journal-World.
Her suspension came two days after five of her students demanded she be fired in an emotional open letter.
Quenette’s controversial remarks came during a Nov. 12 class for graduate students who teach undergraduate classes. The class met the day after a contentious university-wide forum on race and discrimination, which followed days of protests at the University of Missouri over concerns about the school’s handling of racial issues.
Diversity in the classroom was already on the syllabus, the 33-year-old professor said, and one of her students asked how they could handle racial problems in their own classrooms.
“As a white woman I just never have seen the racism,” Quenette told her class, according to the open letter calling for her resignation. “It’s not like I see ‘n—-r spray painted on walls.”
Quenette said it was her way of acknowledging her own blind side.
“I tried to preface everything I said with, ‘I don’t experience racial discrimination so it’s hard for me to understand the challenges that other people face, because I don’t often see those,’” she told the newspaper.
But some students in her class–which is composed of nine white students and one black student–saw it as aggressive hatred.
“It was outright racism,” said Amy Schumacher, a first-year Ph.D. student. “(Quenette’s comments) articulated not only her lack of awareness of racial discrimination and violence on this campus and elsewhere but an active denial of institutional, structural and individual racism.”
Quenette said she offered an apology “in the moment” for the use of the n-word–but no one seemed upset with her.
The discussion moved on to a conversation about low graduation rates among black students. When some students in the class suggested institutionalized racism could be a factor, Quenette said in her experience, low academic performance is usually to blame.