Princeton meeting may determine fate of white professor who used N-word in class

(Photo: Princeton University)

The fate of a white professor at Princeton who repeatedly used the N-word during class could be determined in a meeting held on Monday between university administrators and students who filed a formal complaint against him.

Princeton sophomore Destiny Salter, who filed the complaint along with classmate E Jeremijenko-Conley, tells theGrio that they will meet with faculty leadership to address their grievance with anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen.

The students will sit down with the chair of the anthropology department, Professor Carolyn Rouse, Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun and Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Michele Minter.

Professor Rosen, as reported last week, posed the following question during his “Cultural Freedoms” class: “What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a ni**er?”

Rosen, Salter says, said the word at least three times and doubled down even after students in the class informed him that it was inappropriate to use the racial slur. She says there were six to eight Black students in the classroom of 60.

–Princeton professor repeatedly uses N-word, students walk out in protest–

‘I was in shock’

“I was in shock. I’ve never been in that situation before, even in my predominantly white high school,” Salter told theGrio. “I couldn’t believe that he had actually said it.”

She wasn’t alone. Jeremijenko-Conley, who is white, told the professor that she wasn’t comfortable with a white professor using the N-word in a classroom, followed by junior Malachi Byrd who asked Rosen outright if he was going to continue using the word throughout class and future classes.

“The third time he said ‘I did feel a shiver across the room when I said n*gger.’ He said it in its entirety,” Salter recalled.

Rosen claimed that he wanted students to “feel the power of the word,” she said. When Rosen continued to back up his use of the word, arguing that had been doing it for decades in his course, Salter and Byrd walked out of the classroom in protest.

“He felt comfortable saying that word; not expecting there to be any repercussions for him. He did not even think to consider how that might affect the Black students in his class. Nor did he seem to care,” Salter said.

“Honestly the part that offended me the most is the fact that he had implied that Black people had not already been feeling the effects of the N-word for the past 400 years. He was so comfortable in his position of power.”

Salter says that she hopes the meeting, which takes place on Monday, will lead to Rosen being reprimanded for his actions. She adds, “I wouldn’t be mad if he was fired.”

“I don’t know what made him think that it was up to him to show Black people or the students in the classroom the full power of the N-word. I don’t understand any academic reasoning behind that,” she adds.

“I don’t think my education would be damaged in anyway if I never heard another racial slur during my time at Princeton.”