White Princeton Professor Unapologetic After Upsetting Students By Using Racial Slur
Princeton University made headlines this week after several students stormed out of an anthropology lecture Tuesday after their MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowship-winning professor used the N-word repeatedly.
The Daily Princetonian reports that several students said their anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen asked the class, “What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a n****r.”
The lecture focused on oppressive symbolism.
“He was describing what is acceptable as free speech and what is not,” explained Devyn Holliday ’18 in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
According to students, Rosen continued the discussion and allegedly said the word “n****r” twice more after the original question.
“All the black students were looking at each other, as if asking whether he actually said that,” said Destiny Salter ’20. There were about six black students in the lecture, Holliday said.
According to Holliday, E Jeremijenko-Conley ’20, who identifies as white, responded to Rosen by saying, “I’m not comfortable with a white professor using the N-word.”
Holliday told the ‘Prince’ that Malachi Byrd ’19 allegedly asked Rosen, “So are you just going to keep using the N-word?”
According to Salter, Rosen allegedly responded, “Yes, if I think it’s necessary.”
After this, Byrd walked out of lecture. Later on, three more students also walked out, according to Jeremijenko-Conley.
Holliday says Rosen refused to address the students’ concerns and allegedly defended his use of the word by saying, “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 Salter. “He said ‘you need to suspend your disbelief for the sake of this class.’”
Byrd eventually re-entered the hall and asked if the professor would continue to use the word n****r in lecture. Students began to argue with Rosen, demanding he apologize. Holliday and Salter both said that the students argued with Rosen for the duration of lecture, because he would not give an apology.
According to Salter, Rosen allegedly said in the class, “I don’t think I need to apologize; I did not oppress anyone.”
Holliday expressed concern that before changing the topic of the lecture to pornograhic images, he said to students, “I’m going to give you the option of whether you’d like to see them.”
However, this option was not provided before Rosen said the N-word, according to Holliday.
Jeremijenko-Conley and Salter told the Daily Princetonian they filed a complaint with Justine Levine, director of studies for Rockefeller College and she said in an email that she would work with students to resolve the issue.
At least one student, Kevin Ramos ’21 said he plans to drop the class following the incident.
“The professor saw how uncomfortable the students were with his language,” said Ramos. “If he doesn’t respect the students’ opinion, then it’s not worth learning from him.”
There’s more though.
Princeton spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss said in a statement to the Daily News that “the values of free speech and inclusivity are central to Princeton University’s mission and critical to the education we provide to our students,” including Rosen’s class.
“The conversations and disagreements that took place in the seminar led by Professor Rosen on Tuesday afternoon are part of the vigorous engagement and robust debate that are central to what we do,” Hotchkiss said.
He added that the university is in the process of setting up a meeting with the students.
The chair of the Anthropology Department wrote a letter in support of Rosen to the Daily Princetonian.
It’s actually a really good letter that makes a strong argument for why Rosen used the language he did and it notes that students did not react the same way they have in previous years.
Carolyn Rouse wrote:
Our goal is to get students to move beyond their common sense to see how culture has shaped their beliefs and emotions. If our students leave our classes knowing exactly what they knew when they entered, then we didn’t do our jobs. Rosen has used the same example year after year. This is the first year he got the response he did from the students. This is diagnostic of the level of overt anti-black racism in the country today. Anti-American and anti-Semitic examples did not upset the students, but an example of racism did. This did not happen when Obama was president, when the example seemed less real and seemed to have less power.
I feel bad for the students who left the class not trusting the process. Rosen was fighting battles for women, Native Americans, and African-Americans before these students were born. He grew up a Jew in anti-Semitic America, and recognizes how law has afforded him rights he would not otherwise have.
Do you think that we’ve all become more hyper sensitive under 45? Or is Rosen at fault for not properly explaining why he used the word he did?
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