Thoughts on the suspension of this professor?

Summary: a professor at USC (California) Business School is suspended for using a Mandarin Chinese word that sounds like the English racial slur for Black people.

The Dean’s response is below in another link and quoted below:

Last Thursday in your GSBA-542 classes, Professor Greg Patton repeated several times a Chinese word that sounds very similar to a vile racial slur in English. Understandably, this caused great pain and upset among students, and for that I am deeply sorry. It is simply unacceptable for faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students. We must and we will do better.

Professor Marion Philadelphia, Chair of the Department of Business Communications, will take over teaching the remainder of GSBA-542, beginning tomorrow, Tuesday August 25.

Over the coming weeks and months, I have no higher priority than to work with Vice Dean Sharoni Little, Vice Dean Suh-Pyng Ku and the other members of the Marshall leadership team to identify and redress bias, microaggressions, inequities and all forms of systemic racism associated with anyone’s identity throughout our school. We each must grow and learn always to engage respectfully with one another while fostering and exemplifying the knowledge and skills needed to lead and shape our diverse and global world—such as courage, empathy, compassion, advocacy, collaboration, and integrity.

I am deeply saddened by this disturbing episode that has caused such anguish and trauma. What happened cannot be undone. But please know that Sharoni, Suh-Pyng and I along with the entire Full-Time MBA Program team are here to support each of you. We welcome the opportunity to have conversations with any of you individually.


Geoff Garrett

Any thoughts on this incident?

Given just the information you linked to it sounds like a case of mass cranial rectitis. I don’t know if I can think of any other explanation at the moment, but is there anything else to this story that could explain it?

I think he should be fired for having such a crappy connection while teaching a class.

ETA: Any Mandarin speakers here who can verify that he pronounced it correctly?

I used to work with Chinese grad students. They used to say “nega” all the time. Especially when presenting. It was weird the first time, but after that you get used to it.

I recall years ago there was a D.C. politician who used the word “niggardly” during a speech. After calls for an apology, he refused stating “I’m not going to apologize for people having a poor vocabulary”. He lost the election.

I was thinking of the same (a similar?) incident. Turns out there’s a Staff Report on the subject.

Howard, head of the Office of Public Advocate for D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, who described his own administration of a particular fund as “niggardly” in the presence of two of his staff members. He has since been quoted as saying he “immediately apologized” for making what might be misinterpreted as a “racist remark,” but the damage had been done. Rumors circulated that he had in fact used a racial epithet (one attribution claimed he said, “I’m tired of all these niggers calling me with their problems”), and he eventually resigned. Eventually the mayor, after determining the facts, asked him to rescind his resignation, and he rejoined the administration, albeit in another position. The D.C. mayor’s web page lists him as the mayor’s scheduler.

Thanks for the cite. I’m glad my memory isn’t as bad as I thought it was.

As a Mandarin speaker, this has long been a worry of mine. My brother once had this very problem years ago on a basketball court when he was saying (this word - ‘go get that ball’) to another Chinese friend and a nearby black person reacted with indignation: "Did you just call me N-word???"

It’s not just this, there are three Asian words that sound like the N-word.

That being said - I fully disagree with the disciplinary action taken against the professor. If there is a misunderstanding, the burden should lie on the person who is mistaken, to educate themselves, not the person who is rightfully using a mis-understandable word.

Yes, his pronunciation was pretty accurate.

Thanks! I still think his data rate should be a fireable offense.

I watched his video. It seemed actually pretty high quality to me. Certainly more than enough to be understood.

I agree with this. I was skeptical until I saw the video. Nothing offensive about it.

Wow! This is all over the right wing and Russian propaganda news sources. So, he’s suspended until they investigate. I think it’s pretty likely he gets his job back.

I’ll give this all the attention this deserves – almost none.

I think the investigation has concluded. The dean replaced him with another teacher and the dean will be conducting, among other things, microaggression training. And the dean called it a “disturbing episode” and apologized to the students. Seems like whatever investigation there was has concluded, and the dean chose to remain purposely ignorant of foreign languages.

This is why people think political correctness is a problem.

The article you posted said:

Patton “agreed to take a short term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps.”

For a guy who claims he’s “expert in communication, interpersonal and leadership effectiveness” in his bio, he sure is bad at it.

Well, since the speaker in question is a professor of communication, giving a lecture on communication, one might think a least a little bit of the burden of education about using a mis-understandable word would be on him.

I do agree, though, that the university in this case seems to have dramatically over-reacted.

Although, the linked story is on a website that embeds promo links in that story like, " The radical left will stop at nothing to intimidate conservative students on college campuses. You can stand up for them. [Find out more »]", so…

Yes, because right-wingers and Russian propagandists blow up teapot tempests in all the time.

I don’t think this administrator, quoted in the article, realizes that such a policy is itself a policy of microaggression and inequity, too. It is essentially saying that one whole category of people - namely, Mandarin speakers - aren’t allowed to use part of their language - and one of the most common words in their language, too. Take away the word “that” and communication becomes almost impossible. You can’t say “that car, that classroom, that person, that idea”, without…“that.”

I’m really curious how worthwhile any sort of investigation will be after the dean released a letter calling this a “disturbing episode” and apologized to the students. Seems like the dean has already reached a conclusion instead of allowing for an independent investigation, unburdened with his public thoughts on the matter.