Princeton Professor Cancels ‘Cultural Freedoms’ Course After Backlash over His Use of N-Word

Princeton professor Lawrence Rosen, who cancelled his class after using the N-word as an illustration of hate speech.
Flickr/Miller Center

Princeton professor Lawrence Rosen announced on Monday that he’d be shutting down his course on cultural freedoms for the rest of the semester after he faced a media backlash for using the n-word during a classroom lecture on hate speech.

Princeton professor Lawrence Rosen provoked the ire of his students and the national media last week after he repeatedly used the n-word during a class on hate speech and blasphemy. According to the Daily Princetonian, during a class session on offensive words, Rosen posed a hypothetical about the offensiveness of n-word.

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.

One student immediately challenged Rosen on his use of the word. After Rosen refused to apologize to the class, several students got up and walked out.

In the days following the class, the incident was covered in media outlets such as the New York Daily News, Fox, the Huffington Post, and the International Business Times.

In an email to his students, Rosen informed them that he had “reluctantly” decided to shut down his course on Cultural Freedoms.

l have reluctantly decided to cancel this year’s offering of Anthropology 212, Cultural Freedoms. I think it only fair that you be free, before too much of the semester has passed, to move ahead in another course of your choosing. I will leave the syllabus and readings up on the course blackboard: I hope you will continue to find them useful as you wind your way through these difficult issues. I have enjoyed knowing many of you from previous years and this brief acquaintance, and I know how much the university shares your educational goals. This is a time to reach out to all those who came into the course, and beyond — to do what we do: to listen, to converse, to grapple with the categories by which we create our own experience. I wish you all the best.

Michael Hotchkiss, a spokesperson for Princeton University, told the Weekly Standard that the decision to shut down the class was entirely made by Rosen and came without pressure from the administration.

In a column for the Daily Princetonian, Carolyn Rouse, the Chair of Princeton’s Anthropology Department, defended Rosen.

“Rosen has used the same example year after year. This is the first year he got the response he did from the students,” she wrote. “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. ”



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