Students, OU condemn professor's use of racial slur in class

Peter Gade

NORMAN, Okla. — University of Oklahoma administration says a journalism professor who used a racial slur during a Tuesday class is protected by his First Amendment rights, despite student calls for action.

“Calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a (n-word),” Gade said, according to the OU Daily student newspaper.

OU Interim President Joe Harroz said in a statement that Gade's words are protected by his right to free speech, but "his comment and word choice are fundamentally offensive and wrong."

Gade serves as director of graduate studies and an endowed chair in Gaylord, where he has been a faculty member since 1998.  

Gade sent an apology email Tuesday evening to his students calling his conduct “inexcusable.”

“I offer my deepest and most sincere apologies,” Gade said in the email. "In the coming weeks, I will strive to show you that I am an instructor and teacher who is trustworthy and respectful of all. Please give me that opportunity.”

OU's Black Emergency Response Team, a student coalition organized around fighting racism on campus, responded to the incident via Twitter Tuesday afternoon, calling for action against Gade and Gaylord College. 

"This will not be tolerated or accepted and we expect full action be taken against the professor and college," BERT tweeted, along with the hashtag #Istandwithgaylordblackstudents. "In addition, we expect accommodation be made for the students who have experienced trauma because of this."

Gaylord Dean Ed Kelley said several of the capstone students are evaluating their next moves in the regards to the class, and expressed a range of emotions to the deans. At least two of the students who were present in Tuesday morning's class are black, Kelley said.

Kelley said Gade will continue teaching the course, and that the college will be seeking a "suitable solution" moving forward. 

"Obviously, there's no way you can justify this — (it's) a terrible mistake, absolutely a terrible mistake from a man who has no record of using this kind of language," Kelley said. 

Students in Gade’s capstone met with Gaylord College leadership as well as university administrators Thursday, marking the first time students had returned to the classroom. Students shared their feelings about the incident with college and university administrators, and Gade was not present for the discussion. 

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