- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2016

Officials at Fordham University in New York City are reportedly investigating an adjunct professor who told one of her black students that he had fallen into “a stereotype narrative the dominant society expects.”

Tristen Dossett’s initial email to his professor, Heide Morgan Jonassen, asked for an extension on his midterm. He told Fordham’s campus newspaper, The Ram, that he was shocked by Ms. Jonassen’s response.

“It is really disappointing to see you fall into a stereotype narrative the dominant society expects… your lateness non attendance… now this,” Ms. Jonassen wrote, according to the email obtained by The Ram. “You are better that that Tristen… please do not do this narrative.”

The response prompted Mr. Dossett, a junior at the university’s Lincoln Center campus, to file a Title IX complaint against his professor for what he deemed a “racially biased comment.”

“This remark made me feel invalidated and useless as a student, let alone as a black male,” Mr. Dossett wrote in his email to Title IX on Sunday. “Her comment that I am becoming a (what I have interpreted as) racial stereotype deeply affected my subconscious in many different ways, as well as saddened me.”

Ms. Jonassen told The Ram in an email Tuesday morning that she worded her frustrations poorly and never meant to offend the student.

“What I said came out as inappropriate and caused pain and was interpreted as meaning something that was not at all what I intended to convey,” she wrote. “I feel that in our racist society there are too often assumptions of expected patterns that are used as excuses to dismiss potential in MANY groups of people. It is something my colleagues and collaborators of color often discuss..but I think it is difficult for someone perceived as white to voice. I think Tristen is very smart and talented with enormous potential that I did not want to see damaged. I worded my concern completely badly and understand how it could be misinterpreted and cause his reaction.”

Ms. Jonassen also apologized personally to Mr. Dossett in an email response early Monday morning.

“I regret that I offended you,” she wrote, The Ram reported Wednesday. “I felt you were not stepping up to the plate in a way you are capable of doing and personally I feel not holding everyone to the same high standards is disrespectful to someone’s capabilities. But I did presume and misspeak and I apologize for that.”

Bob Howe, Fordham’s director of communications, said the case has been sent to the provost office for investigation and “possible action,” The Ram reported.

Anastasia Coleman, Title IX coordinator, confirmed the case was “under investigation” but wouldn’t provide further comment to The Ram.

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