An anthropology professor at Princeton University has come under fire after he used the “n-word” multiple times during a class discussion on “hate speech, blasphemy, and pornography.”
Princeton University anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen has faced a serious backlash this week after he repeatedly dropped the “n-word” in a class on “hate speech, blasphemy, and pornography.”
According to the Daily Princetonian, Rosen asked posed an unusual hypothetical about the offensiveness of the epithet. Based on the context of the class, according to student accounts, Rosen did not have to use the word to get his point across.
According to students, during lecture for the course ANT 212: Cultural Freedoms, anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen asked students, “What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a n****r?”
The lecture focused on the topic of oppressive symbolism.
“He was describing what is acceptable as free speech and what is not,” explained Devyn Holliday ’18 in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
According to the report, Rosen said the word three times before being confronted by students in the class. “So are you just going to keep using the N-word?” one student asked Rosen. “Yes, if I think it’s necessary,” he allegedly replied.
Students eventually demanded that Rosen apologize for his use of the word. “I don’t think I need to apologize; I did not oppress anyone,” he allegedly replied. Four students got up from their seats and walked out of the classroom.
Two students filed a complaint with university administrators following the class. University spokesman Michael Hotchkiss published a statement on Friday in response to the Rosen incident.
“The conversations and disagreements that took place in the seminar led by Professor Rosen on Tuesday afternoon are part of the vigorous engagement and robust debate that are central to what we do,” the statement read. “We will continue to look for ways to encourage discussions about free speech and inclusivity with the students in Professor Rosen’s class and the campus community more broadly. As part of those ongoing efforts, we are in the process of setting up a meeting with the students.”
Anthropology department Chair Carolyn Rouse defended Rosen, explaining that Rosen has used the same example for many years in his course on hate speech.
“If our students leave our classes knowing exactly what they knew when they entered, then we didn’t do our jobs,” Rouse wrote in a column for Princeton’s student newspaper. “Rosen has used the same example year after year. This is the first year he got the response he did from the students. This is diagnostic of the level of overt anti-black racism in the country today. Anti-American and anti-Semitic examples did not upset the students, but an example of racism did. This did not happen when Obama was president, when the example seemed less real and seemed to have less power.”