A professor at Duquesne University has been placed on paid leave after video appeared to show him repeatedly saying the N-word during class on Thursday, the university confirmed to CBS News.
Someone who appears to be a student in the educational psychology class posted a video of the incident on Twitter, in which a professor told students they have permission to use the N-word in his class because they are using it “in a pedagogical sense” and that is “not using it in any way other than to demonstrate a point.”
The video shows what appears to be a presentation slide with the title “Race (from a cultural sense).” The slide says “Based on perceived physical differences. Values assigned to race is cultural not physical.”
The professor then used the N-word three times, and said that it “was a very commonly used word” when he was a young man.
In one of the instances, he addressed a student who goes by the name Nick, saying, “When I had a little extra and I was spending it extravagantly, somebody might say I was n****r rich.”
He then asked Nick if people would do that today, to which Nick responded, “No.”
In a statement to CBS News, Duquesne University, a private Catholic university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said that professor Gary Shank has been placed on paid leave pending an investigation, and is not teaching for the time being. Another professor will take over the course, the university said.
Gretchen Generett, dean of the School of Education, sent a letter to students in the class as soon as she learned about what happened, the university told CBS News. Generett thanked students for coming forward and said that the professor’s language was “troubling and disturbing.”
“To be clear, I believe that there is never a time, pedagogically or otherwise, for a professor to create a hostile learning environment. I know this from my experience as a student, a professor, and now as Interim Dean of the School of Education,” Generett wrote. “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 an educator, you should always be mindful of the impact of your actions on the students you are obligated by the profession to teach,” Generett added. “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.”
Shank’s academic profile has been removed from the school’s website. He has not returned CBS News’ request for comment.