Prof tells tardy black student: ‘Slaves never showed up on time’

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Political science students at Murray State University won’t see one of the department’s most experienced professors this semester.Murray State University said he’s on unpaid suspension after a black student came forward, saying the professor made comments that were way out of line.

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Freshman Arlene Johnson said even though she was early for professor Mark Wattier’s class last semester, a film was already playing and class was well under way.She asked him why. His alleged answer?

“I always start my films 10 to 15 minutes before class,” Johnson says.

Johnson said that was not in the syllabus, so she was not aware.She said it was what Wattier said next that astounded her.

“Then he said, ‘That’s okay. I’d expect it from you guys.”

She asked what he meant by that. He allegedly said “Slaves never showed up on time for their owners and were often lashed for it. I just don’t have that right.”

Johnson said she couldn’t get that statement out of her head.

“After that, I felt really unwelcomed for a while,” she said.

So she filed a complaint with the university, a complaint that led to Wattier’s suspension without pay and benefits this semester.Wattier has fired back, appealing his suspension and saying the university violated due process, He included a letter from his doctor stating he met the criteria for depression, including contemplating his own death.

Arlene said she doesn’t know exactly what was going on inside of her professor that day. She just wishes he would have kept it to himself. She said she wants an apology from the professor in person.

Wattier points to a faculty manual that says if a suspension is longer than 30 days, the president has to receive approval from the board of regents. He said they did not do that.

The university would not commenting on that but said Wattier’s appeal will be heard by a committee appointed by the president. Johnson said she dropped Wattier’s class last semester and took the same course taught by a different professor.