- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The University of Oklahoma condemned a journalism professor for using the N-word in class but ultimately defended his First Amendment rights to do so, according to a statement Tuesday.

Peter Gade, the director of graduate studies for the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, reportedly compared the use of the phrase “OK, Boomer” to the offensiveness of the N-word, though he said the racial slur in its entirety during his Journalism, Ethics and Democracy class Tuesday, which is a required course.

“Calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a n–—,” Mr. Gade said, the student-run OU Daily reported.

Some students left the classroom immediately afterward and some later informed administration officials that they would no longer attend the class if Mr. Gade is still teaching it, the newspaper said.

In an email to his students later Tuesday, Mr. Gade apologized and asked for the opportunity to regain their trust.

“I realize the word was hurtful and infuses the racial divisions of our country, past and present,” the professor wrote. “Use of the word is inappropriate in any — especially educational — settings. I offer my deepest and most sincere apologies. In the coming weeks, I will strive to show you that I am an instructor and teacher who is trustworthy and respectful of all. Please give me that opportunity.”

The email came after OU President Joseph Harroz issued a statement condemning Mr. Gade’s behavior but defending his free-speech rights.

“While the professor’s comments are protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom, his comment and word choice are fundamentally offensive and wrong,” the statement said. “The use of the most offensive word, by a person in a position of authority, hurt and minimized those in the classroom and beyond.”

The university issued a separate statement later Tuesday saying the class would have an opportunity to meet with Gaylord College leadership to begin “addressing the very real concerns around this issue” and discuss steps about moving forward, the OU Daily reported.

“Words matter. And so do you,” Dean of Gaylord College Ed Kelley said. “We have all been deeply impacted by this. We seek for you as students to be whole and have a safe environment in which to learn and thrive.”

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