Princeton Course on “Oppressive Symbolism” Cancelled After Protest Over Professor Saying The N-Word

220px-Princeton_shield.svgWe recently discussed the protests over Anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen using the word “ni**er” in a class on offensive terms to discuss the free speech issues surrounding language.  I supported his right to use such terms and questioned where the line would be drawn in university classes.  Some faculty however supported the students and now Rosen has cancelled the class.  It is a worrisome development for those concerned about academic freedom.

The course wasANT 212: Cultural Freedoms — Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography.  Princeton Writing Program lecturer Timothy Haupt and graphic design consultant Waqas Jawaid ’10, published letters defending the students who protested.

Haupt objected to how Rosen handled the objections from a student:

As regards the N-word and other instances of hate speech, it may be the case that we cannot fully avoid or silence the performative dimension of the terms even when we are using them as Rosen did in his initial question. Again, Rosen was asking a question about a hypothetical situation in which the N-word was used performatively to humiliate another. That is, when he said “n****r,” he was describing an instance of hate speech. But his students felt the force of the term nevertheless: The term was doing something rather than just describing a linguistic act. Upon recognizing this, Rosen could have stepped back, clarified the difference between using hate speech and talking about it, and then asked his class how they felt comfortable representing the term going forward — so that the conversation could continue. But that isn’t what happened.

For these reasons, I stand with the students who walked out on Rosen.

Jawaid argued that this is a generational thing and a failure of Rosen to understand the use of such language:

It is also not fair to demand why the students did not walk out when another idea or community was denigrated. I agree that it may be because a certain issue is more alarming and obviously a matter of urgent concern. I don’t feel bad for the students who walked out. I feel strengthened by their courage. When all is said and done, I hope they can sit down and put words and arguments to their feelings, so that the older generation (sorry…) may have a window into new and interesting perspectives that have the power to change the world.

I disagree that Rosen acted inappropriately in the use of racist terms in a course on racist terms.  The controversy reminds me of the ridiculous decision of Yale University Press a few years ago. Yale University Press published Jytte Klausen’s “The Cartoons That Shook the World” (on the cartoons that led to riots and over 200 killed in protests worldwide). However, Yale removed the the 12 cartoons from the book so not to insult Muslims. Thus, you could read the book but not actually see the cartoons themselves. It was a decision by Yale University Press that is still discussed as anti-intellectual and cowardly in academic circles.

The result in this controversy was that the class itself is now cancelled.

Rosen sent an email that said simply “I have reluctantly decided to cancel this year’s offering of Anthropology 212.”


35 thoughts on “Princeton Course on “Oppressive Symbolism” Cancelled After Protest Over Professor Saying The N-Word”

  1. Don’t upset the students.

    They are mentally fragile and easily excited. Their limbic system exists in a constant state of agitation. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. Fight or flight.

    These mentally handicapped students are clearly unable to tolerate or participate in any class on difficult, adult issues. The mere existence of the First Amendment will reduce many to tears, and tears must at all costs be avoided. The slightest upset could trigger another episode, and they might lash out in violence or destruction of property.

    May I suggest basketweaving? Or perhaps the rhetoric of soothing elevator music?

  2. I wonder how many of these students would gloss right over the word if they heard it in song lyrics.

    1. I can answer that! Every single one of them! This whole schmear is just leftist theatrics stuff. Outrage for the sake of outrage. Plus, you get out of class! Now, the idiots have just deep-sixed what was probably an easy A class.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

  3. The Princeton and Stanford cases are merely representative examples of a growing trend at colleges across the country. Instead of engaging in reasoned debate with those who espouse ideas they loathe, many college students have no interest in defending their views—and school officials are enabling them.

  4. In a way, it’s hard to get upset about a stupid course that breads more stupidity. When they start removing a course that actually has value to the public then we should care.

  5. Students would be better served with a 2–3 year world civilizations sequence.

  6. Is this a good analogy? A medical course in which students must dissect animals, followed by students being royally offended at the sight of blood and flesh?

      1. Animals are sometimes used in Human Physiology and Anatomy courses (a pre-req for med school). I dissected a recently euthanized rat in that class’ lab. It was still warm when we started the dissection. It was very educational.

  7. The university should have backed the professor and canceled the students. Why the hell did they take the course if they didn’t think they were going to get “triggered?”

      1. David Benson – I have trouble understanding how Gender Studies is a field of studies when it actually only studies one gender. I don’t know why Madonna is the center of a course somewhere or why Disney built a building for CalTech? that is never used anymore the way it was designed. I don’t understand why the Sun Devils didn’t go 12-0 last year (actually I do, they were lucky to do as well as they did).

        Finally, I do not understand why I am not Lord God Emperor of the Earth, Moon, and Stars.

        1. “Finally, I do not understand why I am not Lord God Emperor of the Earth, Moon, and Stars.”

          Save that one for when they ask you what your preferred pronoun is.

          1. David Benson – in the late 50s or early 60s Disney build a high tech classroom at CalTech where the desks were on hydraulic lifts. The classroom could be molded into different shapes for different purposes. The video was very cool. It was a black box classroom. By now I am sure everyone has forgotten it exists or how it works.

              1. David Benson – maybe Disney decided to spend the money at a different California school. It was a kool design.

  8. Utter tomfoolery. Unless and until the adults start being adults, the few institutions of higher learning that subscribe to this nonsense will see themselves becoming even more of a caricature than they already are. There are many, many universities that are continuing to show undergraduates how to engage their minds through intellectual rigor rather than merely piddling around in non-substantive credit-earning time-wastes such as demonstrated here.

  9. As they stormed out in feigned offense, I’m told many students were seen jamming buds into their ears with the thumping braying of some gangsta rapper talking his way through various corruptions of n*gger, hoe and cracker. Oh, the torment of this professor on these young minds!

  10. It is probably a safe assumption that the outraged students were common social justice warriors who naturally gravitated to such a course. I personally fail to see any substantive utility in courses such as these that only serve to perpetuate racial division and measurably drive up the general tuition costs to students to service the overhead of these courses.

    As I’ve mentioned before, you can never be left-wing enough for these types of students as they will often turn on their own if they dare to step out of line.

    I can understand the professor’s frustration. It would seem that the decision of his fellow academics to turn against him weighed heavily to cancel the course. That it is no longer offered is a positive sign.

    1. It’s a very bad sign that these cry bullies have proven to themselves that they wield power and can effectively determine the curriculum. Next, Shakespeare will be stricken, if he’s not already gone.

      1. Nothing will be safe as the winds change randomly in any firestorm.

        A real hoot might be to exact a little counter-intelligence among that group. Identify a core group of these SJWs and transmit via social networking disinformation that this group is actually oppressing a random group of victims. Then when the anger turns inward, everyone else can watch from the sidelines while both factions attack one another.

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