Students from Princeton University say that an anthropology professor repeatedly used the n-word in class while asking students a question, prompting several of them to walk out of the Tuesday lecture.
According to the Daily Princetonian, the university’s daily newspaper, Professor Lawrence Rosen asked students, “What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a nigger?” during a lecture for the anthropology course “Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy and Pornography.” This particular lecture was focused on oppressive symbolism.
“He was describing what is acceptable as free speech and what is not,” student Devyn Holliday told the news site.
Students say that Rosen used the slur at least twice more during the lecture after his initial question.
“All the black students were looking at each other, as if asking whether he actually said that,” another student, Destiny Salter, added.
Some students confronted Rosen about the use of the word. Holliday said that one student, E. Jeremijenko-Conley, who identifies as white, told Rosen, “I’m not comfortable with a white professor using the n-word.”
Another student, Malachi Byrd, asked Rosen, “So are you just going to keep using the n-word?” according to Holliday.
Salter said that in response to that question, Rosen said, “Yes, if I think it’s necessary.”
That prompted Byrd to walk out of the lecture, with three more students following suit, students told the Princetonian.
Holliday told the Princetonian that instead of addressing students’ concerns, Rosen defended his use of the slur.
“It’s supposed to deliver a gut punch, so that’s why I used it,” the professor apparently claimed.
“Every single time he used the n-word, he used the word in its entirety,” Salter said. “He said, ‘You need to suspend your disbelief for the sake of this class.’”
Byrd eventually came back into the class and asked if Rosen would continue to use the word. That caused students to start to argue with Rosen, demanding an apology.
But because Rosen had apparently already dug his hole and was insistent that he lie in it, he refused to even do that. He reportedly told the class, “I don’t think I need to apologize; I did not oppress anyone.”
One student, Kevin Ramos, told the news site that he planned to drop the class because of the interaction.
“The professor saw how uncomfortable the students were with his language,” he said. “If he doesn’t respect the students’ opinion, then it’s not worth learning from him.”
Jeremijenko-Conley and Salter told the Princetonian that they filed a complaint about the incident with Justine Levine, the director of studies for Rockefeller College at Princeton.
Both Byrd and the professor, Rosen, were either unavailable or did not respond to requests for comment, the Princetonian reported.