“investigation and subsequent resolution threatened academic freedom and risked chilling speech for all professors”
We recently highlighted the story of a professor who got into hot water for using this word while discussing the work of James Baldwin.
The FIRE blog reports:
Emory Law Professor faces termination hearing for using “n-word” in discussion of civil rights case, discussion with student
Last September, we covered the suspension of Paul Zwier, a white professor at Emory University School of Law, after he used the word “nigger” while discussing the facts of a civil rights case. After Zwier subsequently told a student, who had come to his office to discuss the controversy, that Zwier had been called a “nigger-lover” by white racists angered by his civil rights work, the university initiated disciplinary proceedings. That sparked a letter from FIRE and two letters from the American Association of University Professors, raising concerns about the implications of Emory’s conduct on due process and academic freedom.
Despite those warnings, Emory has continued down a path toward Zwier’s termination, setting a hearing for Oct. 4, 2019. In August 2018, Zwier was barred from teaching first-year classes for two years, and agreed to participate in “dialogues focused on racial sensitivity,” after he used the word in discussing the first of two cases involving racial discrimination, the latter a case in which Maryland’s highest court held that a termination was not “driven by an improper motive,” even though the defendant’s manager was quoted as saying: “[Y]ou nigger boys make me sick[.]”
Zwier also agreed to revise the teacher’s manual for his textbook with suggestions for how teachers using his text can avoid offending students. Although this resolution appeared largely (if not entirely) voluntary, we explained that Zwier’s investigation and subsequent resolution threatened academic freedom and risked chilling speech for all professors whose coursework covers sensitive material.
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