/  09.16.2020

A Duquesne University professor has been placed on paid leave after he used the N-word multiple times during an online lecture.

A video of Professor Gary Shank using the racial slur was shared to social media on Friday (Sep. 11) by a student. “When I was a young man, that was a very commonly used word. You know what Brazil nuts are, right?” Shank asked his class. “When I was a kid, people called them [N-word] toes.” Seconds later, he dropped the racial slur again.

“When I had a little extra money, and I was spending it extravagantly, somebody might say I was [N-word] rich,” he continued. Shank then told his class that it was ok for him to use the word because he used it in a “pedagogical sense.”

Within moments of learning about the incident, School of Education Dean Gretchen Generett sent out a letter to the students in Shank’s class.

“To be clear, I believe that there is never a time, pedagogically or otherwise, for a professor to create a hostile learning environment,” she wrote. “I know this from my experience as a student, a professor and now as Interim Dean of the School of Education. Using the ‘N word’ or seemingly encouraging students to use that word is not in keeping with the mission of the University, the School of Education, or the Pennsylvania Department of Education.” 

“As a professor in the Leading Teaching Program here in the School of Education, I often speak about teachable moments,” Generett continued. “This is one of them. As an educator, you should always be mindful of the impact of your actions on the students you are obligated by the profession to teach. Your intentions are of no consequence when a student’s learning is disrupted by what you believe to be okay. Your actions are what students will remember.”

Another instructor has taken over Shank’s class until the investigation is concluded. Check out the videos below.


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