“Recently, a USC faculty member during class used a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English. We acknowledge the historical, cultural and harmful impact of racist language” University of Southern California
At the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, Communications Professor Greg Patton was suspended from teaching his class in August, after a video of one of his lectures allegedly made students feel uneasy and unwelcome. In the lecture, Professor Patton was teaching the use of filler words in languages such as “um” and “like” in the English language. The example utilized by the professor to demonstrate the concept was the Chinese equivalent of “that,” which sounds close to an English racial slur.
On August 21, students announced their discomfort with Professor Patton’s word-choice: “Our mental health has been affected. It is an uneasy feeling allowing him to have power over our grades. We would rather not take his course than to endure the emotional exhaustion of carrying on with an instructor that disregards cultural diversity and sensitivities and by extension creates an unwelcome environment for us Black students.”
Professor Patton was quickly suspended from teaching the class and USC “offer[ed] supportive measures to any students, faculty, or staff member who request[ed] assistance.”
Meanwhile, many students supported Professor Patton’s usage of the Chinese language. Thousands of students signed a petition defending the professor: “For him to be censored simply because a Chinese word sounds like an English pejorative term is a mistake and is not appropriate, especially given the educational setting. It also dismisses the fact that Chinese is a real language and has its own pronunciations that have no relation to English.”
One alumni echoed these students’ sentiments: “The current incident, and Marshall’s response so far, seem disturbingly similar to prevalent behavior in China…spurious accusations against innocent people, which escalated into institutional insanity.”