A Princeton University professor’s alleged use of the n-word prompted several students to get up and walk out of class Thursday afternoon, The Daily Princetonian reported.
According to several students, the walk-out happened during a lecture for Anthropology 212: “Cultural Freedoms” after professor Lawrence Rosen reportedly asked the class, “… What’s worse? A white man punching a Black man, or a white man calling a Black man a n—-r?”
The focus of that day’s lecture was the topic of oppressive symbolism.
“He was describing what is acceptable as free speech and what is not,” student Devyn Holliday told the campus paper, adding that there were about six Black students in the room when Rosen uttered the racial expletive.
He didn’t say it just once, however. Students said the professor repeated the slur two or three more times throughout his lecture and during discussions about his initial question.
“All the Black students were looking at each other, as if asking whether he actually said that,” sophomore Destiny Salter said. Things pretty much went downhill from there.
Holliday told The Princetonian it was a white student who initially called out Rosen for his use of the word, saying, “I am not comfortable with a white professor using the N-word.” His rebuke was followed by that of another student, Malachi Byrd, who asked Rosen if he was going to keep using the racial slur.
“Yes, if I think it’s necessary,” the professor reportedly responded.
Byrd eventually left the lecture hall but returned to confront Rosen using an expletive of his own, an unnamed source told the paper. Three other students also walked out of class.
Rather than address students’ concerns, students said Rosen danced around the question and even defended his use of the word, saying, “It’s supposed to deliver a gut punch, so that’s why I used it.”
“Every single time he used the N-word, he used the word in its entirety,” said Salter. “He said ‘you need to suspend your disbelief for the sake of this class.'”
Students said they spent the remainder of class arguing with Rosen because he refused to apologize. Holliday said what was most concerning to her was that Rosen, before changing the lecture’s topic to pornographic images, gave students the option of whether they’d like to see them, but didn’t extend the same courtesy before using the N-word.
Two students said they’ve since filed complaints with university officials.