White Professor Uses N-Word, Gets in Hot Water

But Andrea Quenette says it was part of legitimate conversation
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2015 5:00 PM CST
In this Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, photo, Andrea Quenette, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, poses for a photo at her home in Lawrence, Kan.   (Mike Yoder/The Lawrence Journal-World via AP)

(Newser) – A white professor is on leave and under investigation after using the n-word in class—but she says her actions were part of a legitimate conversation about race, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports. Andrea Quenette, an assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, says she requested a paid leave of absence after learning that five people made a discrimination complaint against her. "I didn’t intend to offend anyone, I didn’t intend to hurt anyone," she tells the Lawrence Journal-World. "It was an open conversation about a serious issue" and thus fair game in class, she says. But Amy Schumacher, a PhD student in Quenette's mostly white class, called it a case of "outright racism."

What happened: During a Nov. 12 class for graduate students, Quenette responded to a question about how they should discuss race when teaching undergraduates. At one point, she said she saw little racism on campus: "As a white woman I just never have seen the racism. … It’s not like I see (n-----) spray painted on walls…," she said, according to a long online letter complaining about her. The letter also accuses her of blaming lower black graduation rates at the school on poor academic performance, not racism. Now Quenette has retained a lawyer and her husband has started a GoFundMe page to pay legal bills. But students aren't bending: Quenette "articulated ... her lack of awareness of racial discrimination and violence on this campus and elsewhere," Schumacher says. "This denial perpetuates racism in and of itself." (President Obama made headlines when he used the n-word during an interview.)

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