Posted on December 13, 2021

Fordham University ‘Fires a White English Professor Who Mixed up the Names of Two Black Students in Class

Adriana Diaz, Daily Mail, December 11, 2021

Fordham University reportedly fired a white professor who mixed up the names of two black students in class and then sent an email to the students rambling about his ‘innocent mistake.’

Christopher Trogan, 46, was fired from the university on October 25, The Fordham Observer recently reported. The former English professor allegedly mixed up the names of the two black students when they walked into the class late on September 24.

After class, Chantel Sims and another unnamed student emailed Trogan to express their frustration with the professor’s mistake, explaining that they believed the mix-up was due to their skin color, according to the university paper.

Trogan responded by emailing the entire English class addressing the situation that he described as an ‘innocent mistake,’ which he blamed on a ‘confused brain’ because the students arrived to class while he was in the middle of teaching.

After his termination, Trogan sent an email again, this time a nine-page letter to his 80 former students explaining his view of what happened. The university has since told him to refrain from communicating with the students.

Bob Howe, assistant vice president of communications, declined to answer students’ questions on the case.

He told the New York Post that Fordham ‘takes personnel matters very seriously,’ but claimed ‘media representations regarding this issue do not reflect the facts in Dr. Trogan’s case.’

Howe told on Saturday that national regulations forbid the university from discussing personnel matters and therefore can not elaborate on what he claims is being misrepresented.

‘The offended student assumed my mistake was because I confused that student with another Black student… I have done my best to validate and reassure the offended student that I made a simple, human, error. It has nothing to do with race,’ Trogan’s first email read, according to The Observer.

Trogan said the Composition II class was ‘centered specifically and explicitly around issues of justice, equality, and inclusion,’ and noted that he has spent his ‘entire life’ dedicated to those issues.

He had pushed students to file a formal complaint with the university if they still felt offended by the incident.

‘Depending on your response to the officials above, I may – or may not – be your professor in class next week. It’s all up to you,’ he wrote.

Sims said she did not file a complaint about the incident but both she and the unnamed student felt the rambling letter was over the top.

‘It seemed a little excessive, like all you needed to do was say sorry and it would have been fine,’ she said. ‘We were not actually that upset about him mixing up our names. It was more so the random things he would throw into the response.’

The other student said that Trogan has repeatedly called her by the wrong name despite her correcting him.

‘I felt really disrespected,’ they told the student paper. ‘I did not feel heard because every time he (misnamed me) I would tell him, and it just seemed like he would brush it off or that he did not care.’

Two days after the incident, Trogan was placed on an immediate suspension with pay and benefits while his actions were investigated.

On October 5, the university held a video conference with the professor and he was terminated effective immediately several weeks later.

‘I was never informed of the charges against me, nor of the nature of the investigation of which I was the subject,’ Trogan said in an email to his former students after he was let go. ‘I was kept completely in the dark.’

While the unnamed student was upset with her professor, she said she was surprised by Fordham’s decision to fire the professor.

Other students came to his defense calling him ‘brilliant,’ ‘humble’ and ‘nice.’ Some stated that they did not believe he deserved to be fired.

Trogan said that the university cited the nine-page email rather than the name mix-up as the main reason for his termination and that he did not show ‘proper development’ from the conversation on October 5.

‘[Eva] Badowska may have carried things out legally, but definitely not morally and certainly not justly,’ the professor claimed. Badowska is the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Associate VP of Arts and Sciences at the university.

Ashar Foley, chief steward of Fordham Faculty United, said Trogan has warned that he is considering taking legal action against the university.

He is arguing that his remaining salary for the academic year should be paid in full, his benefits should be immediately reinstated and that the incident should be erased from his record.

‘If any student would like to help me achieve some justice now that my name is mud and my reputation has been ruined, they could insist that Badowska carry out the above three actions at a bare minimum,’ Trogan said.