UT student organizations call for termination of professor accused of writing racial slur on whiteboard

The University of Tennessee campus
The University of Tennessee campus(WVLT)
Published: Feb. 7, 2021 at 12:08 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Numerous student organizations at the University of Tennessee have called on school officials to fire a professor who wrote a racial slur on a classroom whiteboard.

A UT student posted a photo on Twitter that showed a professor standing in front of a whiteboard that displays a racial slur, targeting Black people. The word appears to be used as an acronym for Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished.

The tweet went viral capturing the attention of UT officials as well as actress Gabrielle Union, who responded “I shouldn’t be surprised and yet here I am.”

Following the reports, UT’s School of Arts and Sciences issued an apology to students, stating, “we’re sorry for the hurt this has caused many members of our community.” The university said they value diversity and inclusion and are “working hard to create a campus where everyone matters and belongs.”

UT’s Africana studies program also issued a release on the topic, “The Pejorative Meaning of an Epithet,” saying, in part:

“We have been confronted with the image of one of our faculty members in Africana Studies standing in front of a whiteboard with a word that presents as a racial epithet for Black people. Underneath it is the reference phrase – “Never Ignorant About Getting Goals Accomplished – using the “n-word” acronym, which is the name of a song (and part of the album title) by the renowned rap artist, Tupac (1993). Without context and the acronym alone, this word presents a very painful and derogatory one that is not only uncomfortable but also hurtful and troubling. But, it is the context of this discussion and this word that begs knowledge-building.

The Africana studies department said they are “willing and have had further discussion about the complexities of the “who, what, when, where, how, and why” people reference the “n-word,” even though to our understanding, this is why our professor wrote it— knowing that speaking it was a power even she should not have, which was a point she made in her lecture. We most sincerely regret and apologize that this action was in poor judgment, given the nuances and hurt that it presents.”

Student organizations throughout the university released a letter saying they want more action taken.

“Racism is as much a UTK tradition as the checkerboard,” the letter posted to the UTK Student Government Association’s Twitter stated.

The letter stated that, in the past, multiple students have reported the professor accused of writing the slur on the whiteboard for past assignments.

The students said the professor instructed her students to, “recreate the experience of ‘enslaved African Americans who endured the Middle Passage.’”

The students said bias reports made in the past were ignored by university officials. The organizations called for the termination of the professor and bias training for new and existing staff. They also asked that the professor’s curriculum be reviewed and bias reports be taken seriously and acted upon in the future.

The letter is signed by the SGA, UT’s NAACP chapter, the Africana Studies Student Association, the Black Cultural Programming Committee, the Progressive Student Alliance, the Brothers United for Excellence, Students for Migrant Justice, the Black Student Union, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Women’s Coordinating Council, and the Muslim Student Association.

The letter calls on UT students to “continue amplifying” their voices and contact university officials with their stories.

UT officials said the incident is still being investigated and further action could follow.

Copyright 2021 WVLT. All rights reserved.