Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has fired a professor over a discussion he held with students about the use of offensive language. Students complained to administrators after Professor Gary Shank used a racial slur during the discussion about inappropriate language.
According to a press release by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Duquesne University has terminated Professor Gary Shank over his use of a racial slur during a classroom discussion about offensive language.
Professor Shank and advocacy groups like FIRE have argued that the use of the racial slur was relevant to the classroom discussion.
On Wednesday morning, Shank received notice from the university that his employment contract had been terminated. “Your employment at Duquesne University is terminated for serious misconduct,” the university wrote in a letter to Shank. The university noted that he will have an opportunity to appeal the its decision.
In a September letter, FIRE argued that the university had violated its commitment to academic freedom when it chastised Shank for his use of offensive language.
Under any basic conception of academic freedom, the choice of whether and how to confront upsetting material in a pedagogically-relevant context is left to faculty members, not administrators. Duquesne promises this right to its faculty and must not violate those promises. Doing so casts an unacceptable chill over the rights of Duquesne faculty who have relied on the institution’s promises and exposes the university to considerable legal liability.
Breitbart News reported in August that New School Professor Laurie Sheck faced an investigation after she used the “n-word” during a lesson on black author James Baldwin. The investigation was ultimately dropped and Sheck did not face sanctions.
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