A white professor at the University of Kansas requested a paid leave of absence after reportedly saying the n-word and denying systematic racial discrimination at KU in a class discussion about race, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.
The professor in question, Andrea Quenette, is an assistant professor of communication studies at the school. Quenette requested a paid leave of absence on Friday morning after learning that five people filed discrimination complaints against her, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
Multiple reports say Quenette was teaching a graduate-level course that teaches grad students how to instruct undergraduate courses. According to Newser, a student then asked how to address racism in the classroom, which led to a discussion about campus-wide efforts to eliminate racism.
Quenette reportedly said the n-word when comparing KU events to events at other college campuses.
“As a white woman I just never have seen the racism. … It’s not like I see (the n-word) spray painted on walls,” Quenette said, according to an online letter written by students asking for Quenette’s termination.
“I didn’t intend to offend anyone, I didn’t intend to hurt anyone,” Quenette told the Lawrence Journal-World. “It was an open conversation about a serious issue that is affecting our campus.”
The students’ letter also says Quenette made additional comments about institutionalized racism that students claimed were “uncomfortable, unhelpful and blatantly discriminatory.”
“As you can imagine, this utterance (of the n-word) caused shock and disbelief,” students added in their letter. “Her comments that followed were even more disparaging as they articulated not only her lack of awareness of racial discrimination and violence on this campus and elsewhere but an active denial of institutional, structural, and individual racism. This denial perpetuates racism in and of itself.”
Quenette’s leave of absence is expected to continue until the investigation concludes.