Duquesne University Education Professor Gary Shank has been on leave since mid-September for using the N-word in a class discussion about why the word is inappropriate.

Shank gave students permission to use the word for the sake of their discussion, and this set off a firestorm.

Now the school has terminated his employment.

Natasha Lindstrom reports at Trib Live:

Duquesne University fires professor who used racial slur in class

Duquesne University on Wednesday fired an education professor for “serious misconduct” less than a month after suspending him for his use of a racial slur in a virtual lecture related to race.

“We have 30 days to grieve the termination and certainly will do so,” Warner Mariani, attorney for the embattled professor, Gary Shank, told the Tribune-Review.

Shank — who’s been teaching for nearly three decades and a faculty member at Duquesne since 1997 — had been on paid leave since Sept. 11, when video was posted to Twitter of the portion of his Sept. 9 virtual class that drew backlash from some students, alumni and community members. University officials placed Shank on paid leave “moments after” learning of Shank’s use of the slur multiple times during a presentation in his course on educational psychology.

The prompt suspension was followed by an ultimatum, with the university giving Shank a chance to resign. His attorney said at the time that Shank had no intention of doing so.

The statement from a school official couches the decision in the safety of the students. It’s apparently very important to keep students safe from certain words:

“While Duquesne will not comment on the personnel matter, it will confirm that it takes seriously Dr. Shank’s in-class conduct on Sept. 9, 2020, which included repeated use of a racial slur,” Gabriel Welsch, the university’s vice president of marketing and communications, said by e-mail Wednesday afternoon. “Duquesne University is deeply committed to providing a campus and learning experience that is respectful, safe and inclusive for all members of the Duquesne community. In fact, the University recently announced an action plan intended to examine and enhance how we create an inclusive climate at Duquesne.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has gotten involved here. Shank is planning to appeal the school’s decision, with their help.

Alex Morey reports at the FIRE blog:

Duquesne terminates Gary Shank over racial slur discussion, violating academic freedom promises

Duquesne University issued a termination letter to professor Gary Shank this morning. Shank had been on leave since controversy erupted in September over his use of the N-word during a class discussion about why using it is considered inappropriate.

Shank and FIRE have argued that the professor’s use of the slur was pedagogically relevant and protected under Duquesne’s promises of free expression and academic freedom. The AAUP also expressed concerns about Duquesne’s treatment of Shank.

Last week, FIRE wrote to the Department of Education about this matter, alerting the Department that Duquesne appeared to be substantially misrepresenting the nature of its academic program — and violating its promises to its accreditor — by promising rights it does not provide in practice.

Morey points out that Duquesne is essentially violating its own policy:

As we wrote to Duquesne last month, universities that promise academic freedom must allow faculty to determine how to discuss controversial material in their classrooms, provided their discussion does not violate any other rule or law:

Under any basic conception of academic freedom, the choice of whether and how to confront upsetting material in a pedagogically-relevant context is left to faculty members, not administrators. Duquesne promises this right to its faculty and must not violate those promises. Doing so casts an unacceptable chill over the rights of Duquesne faculty who have relied on the institution’s promises and exposes the university to considerable legal liability.

Irresponsible reporting from the media does not help. Countless outlets are reporting this story without explaining why the word was used or that it was an academic discussion about the word, not just a reckless use of the word.

Here’s a typical example:

The left is intent on pushing the narrative that ‘systemic racism’ is a big problem in America. It is being done for purely political and cynical purposes.

If lives are ruined in the process, so be it.

Featured image via YouTube.


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