A four-month investigation into a University of Kansas professor who used a racial slur in class has concluded the word was used in an educational context and not intended to be racist, the AP reports. Assistant communication studies professor Andrea Quenette has been on paid leave since November, when a group of eight graduate students filed a discrimination complaint after she used the slur in response to a question in class. The university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access notified her on Friday that she did not violate the school's nondiscrimination or racial and ethnic harassment policies when she used the word, the Lawrence Journal-World reports. "This word is offensive, but it was used in the context of retelling a factual event that occurred at another campus," Quenette says, summarizing what the university wrote in a letter explaining its conclusion.
The discussion occurred on Nov. 12, a day after a heated, campuswide town hall forum on race. Her comment was in response to a student's question about how to best talk about the event and racial issues with other students. After saying that as a white woman she found it difficult to relate to others' challenges, she noted that unlike on other campuses where there had been visible racist acts and assaults, she had not seen the N-word—she used the actual slur—spray-painted on walls at KU. Now the university has recommended that Quenette undergo cultural competency training, re-evaluate orientation curriculum to include more diversity support, and pair up with a faculty member. A black graduate student who complained about the incident said that while Quenette apparently didn't violate school policy, that doesn't mean her comments weren't perceived as racist by those who received them.