DePaul Students File Complaint Against Professor For Using N-Word In Class Hypothetical On Fighting Words

We recently discussed the cancellation of a Princeton class on oppressive language when the professor used the n-word.  I was strongly critical of actions in the controversy and the ultimate cancellation as an attack on both academic freedom and a reflection of the loss of objectivity on our campuses.  Now, law students have made a similar complaint to DePaul University.  Professor Donald Hermann  is under fire for using the word in a hypothetical.  It is particularly distressing to see law students objecting to the use of this word, which arises often in legal cases and was used for a legitimate purpose by Professor Hermann.

We previously discussed DePaul University’s failure to protect free speech on campus, but this controversy attacks the very heart of academic freedom and objectivity.

The hypothetical in the class was fairly conventional: A white supremacist at a funeral of a civil rights leader uses the N-word, causing the crowd to come after him. If the white supremacist shoots and kills someone, can he claim self-defense?

Ironically, Hermann’s view was that the white supremacist is guilty of murder because he was the aggressor with his use of the racial slur.

Students have also objected to Hermann’s use of other disparaging terms in his class discussion.


Hopefully the law school will be more supportive of free speech and academic freedom than the university as a whole in this controversy.  What concerns me is that students are now coming to our graduate schools after being taught that they should be insulated from then insults, slurs, and opposing views in the world.  Even in seeking to join a profession that deals with those issues, they want to sanitize the facts to avoid insult or discomfort.  We work as lawyers in the real world and address real problems like the one that Professor Hermann was trying to explore in his class. That is a valuable lesson in itself.

56 thoughts on “DePaul Students File Complaint Against Professor For Using N-Word In Class Hypothetical On Fighting Words”

  1. Maybe his use of the word was gratuitous.

    Why use it?

    His saying “the N word” wouldn’t have diminished the point of the hypothetical.

    If anyone disagrees, please explain why.

    1. Gratuitous? It was central to the hypothetical. Why use it? To provoke critical-thinking. Instead, he provoked critical-action. We are creating lawfare warriors; rights be damned.

  2. Why does this post use “the n-word” instead of the word at issue? To quote an epithet is not to use an epithet. If some people, such as the students in this case, do not understand the difference, then so much the worse for them. To use a euphemism in place of an epithet is to give the epithet magical power.

  3. N

    Yes, n.

    The letter is censored in China. Err, cesored. I Chia.

  4. It is also a matter of the students trying to out-virtue-signal each other.

    As I’ve said before, the best way to deal with these precious snowflakes is to just ignore them, never elevating their childlike behavior to that of a controversy or a crisis. It defeats their power by doing so.

  5. From slaves to “untouchables” under the new American Castrati.

    Ben Franklin, we gave you “a republic, if you can keep it” (wherein the “poor” and women could not vote).

    Americans couldn’t keep their slaves, their wives or their nation.

    “Crazy Abe” implied a promise of compassionate repatriation.

    To wit,

    “If all earthly power were given me,” said Lincoln in a speech delivered in Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854, “I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution [of slavery]. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.” “…he asked whether freed blacks should be made “politically and socially our equals?” “My own feelings will not admit of this,” he said, “and [even] if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not … We can not, then, make them equals.”

  6. To me, intent is the key. If a word someone might find offensive was used with the intention of offending the recipient, then it’s wrong. If there was no intent to offend, then the recipient shouldn’t take offense.

  7. Clearly, these law students are too mentally fragile to handle law school, which requires a certain maturity level and strength of mind. (As well as the ability to function on little sleep.)

    Universities are the antithesis of what they used to be. Students were excited and proud to be treated like adults and discuss the really tough issues. No one either wanted or needed a class to be dumbed down or to have all the triggers removed. We were supposed to be triggered, challenged, and made to feel uncomfortable.

    I am increasingly wondering if the reason why this generation has the dishonor to be known as the generation of school shootings because we have created a generation of entitled, emotionally fragile, easily enraged people who demand the world to accommodate and change to suit them. They keep a tally of slights and want revenge…and they will act on it. Sometimes, it’s confronting a professor and screaming him off the podium. Sometimes it’s shooting to get revenge for all the wrongs. You are owed. You are owed a campus magazine called No Whites Allowed, a city owes you and should cave to your demands that you tear a statue down, football fans owe you, and should be your captive audience while you refuse to honor the flag and bring your personal politics to the field. Everyone is a narcissist Nero.

    1. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

      No. What about ME? What can my country do for me? I get to choose my identity and no one else gets to have any say on how they view me, or what gender, race, or ethnicity they consider me. I choose how others see me, and if they object, it’s a crime in Canada, and should be a crime here. How dare anyone have a different opinion than my own world view or self view.

      This is the Neurotic Violent Generation.

    2. I wanted to add that I think that the use of the N word should die. African Americans should not call each other it, and should not put it in virtually every single rap song that exists. As much as they want to tell themselves that it is empowering or a virtue to use it on each other, and pure poison if anyone else does, it is a disparagement. Even if they are unaware consciously, their subconscious understands. It is definitely not expressing admiration of a successful person.

      There should not be censorship, and of course it is a valid topic of study in college, but it should not be so ubiquitous in the casual conversation of a civilized society. The first step to reducing its use is for the African American community to stop keeping it alive. Most racial epithets have already fallen so far out of usage that some of their meanings have to be looked up.

        1. I notice that you can virtue signal on this, but not actually explain anything.Which, is unlike me, to wit:

          I find that your “default mechanism” of “It’s the lingering impact of slavery!” illustrates you to a T! A racist! Who doesn’t really think deep down that Blacks are equal to Whites, and are largely a group of retards who can not be expected to take a daily birth control pill, or to avail themselves of an education. Or to refrain from committing crimes.

          And your racism also feeds your own personal narcissism, where IsaacB can be the Mighty Whitey Defender of Poor Helpless Negros, always ready with an excuse for their crappy, pathetic, trashy behavior. Because it makes you feeel sooo good about yourself.

          You are a moron, and worse. You are worse than the Klan.

          Squeeky Fromm
          Girl Reporter

          1. Squeeky,
            issac is far from a moron, he’s worse. He’s an articulate and educated progressive.

      1. Huevos grandes.

        Where be you “from?”

        Is there room for more people there?

      2. The US is desperately in need of a final solution to the Nigger question.

  8. The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. Abraham Lincoln

    With the courtroom in between.

  9. DePaul Students File Complaint Against Professor For Using N-Word In Class Hypothetical On Fighting Words

    Sticks/stones may break your bones but names can never hurt you.

  10. I disagree with the answer to the hypothetical posed by the DePaul professor: A racist uses a racially disparaging word; a crowd comes after him, and he shoots and kills someone in self-defense. Can he be charged with murder because he is deemed the aggressor by his use of the racial slur? The professor says “yes.” If I were on a jury, my answer would be “no;” that you can’t murder someone because you were offended by a word that person uttered. Otherwise, how do the courts decide which slur is sufficiently offensive? Chink, slope, slant, paddy, bitch, picaninny, nap head, spic, beaner, cracker, wop and so on. The list of racial and gender slurs is endless. Is one sufficiently offensive to justify murder, but another only offensive enough to permit a good beat down? Is this an objective or subjective test? Should the law sanction violence in response to speech? My answer is no, never.

    1. TIN:

      “A racist uses a racially disparaging word; a crowd comes after him, and he shoots and kills someone in self-defense. Can he be charged with murder because he is deemed the aggressor by his use of the racial slur? The professor says “yes.” If I were on a jury, my answer would be “no;”


      And you’d be right. The old “sticks and stones” argument is still persuasive. You can certainly incite violence with your words but you don’t lose your right of self-defense and become a martyr candidate because of it. Our professor should know that. Each actor(s) makes a choice and both can be criminally charged assuming they survive — one for inciting a riot and the others for murder or its attempt.

    2. Darn good analysis! I agree. My Goodness, but if I had the right to attack everybody who has called me the “B word”!

      Plus, think of the black people who would shoot white people, and then claim, “He/she/it/they called me a n*gg*r!, and when I justifiably attacked them, they pulled out a knife/gun/baseball bat/Hurri-Cane/guitar/flower vase/very large vibrating sexual toy/etc. on me, sooo I shot them dead!” and, the shooter is the only witness.

      Plus, if mere words were enough to justify an attack, we should immediately scrap all the domestic violence laws, because most domestic violence against women starts with a good session of b*tching and verbal abuse by the woman.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

      1. True story: In my office (federal agency in Washington, D.C.), a black male paralegal and a white female paralegal were at odds. He called her a “f*cking white bitch,” and she responded by flipping him “the bird.” Both were given written reprimands for unprofessional behavior. Now I’m wondering if she could have beaten the skinny little twerp to death with a Black’s Law Dictionary and argued justifiable provocation. Would Turley defend her?

        1. TIN – the real question is could she have taken him without the Black’s? 😉

          1. Hi PaulCS!!!

            My Volume 1 came in, and I read The Microscopic God! It was really good. Thank you for putting me on to it.

            Plus, I got in another book which I am just starting on called PostWar Germans: An Anthropologist’s Account by David Rodnick. Still on Chapter 1, but it seems very good so far. Published in 1948.

            Squeeky Fromm
            Girl Reporter

            1. Squeeky – glad you enjoyed The Microcosmic God. Now look for one called The Last Mimzy. I just finished George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo which is very different. Almost written as a play script. Revolves around the death of Will Lincoln.

    3. I agree. If some jerk told me that I was unintelligent because I am a woman, I am not allowed to shoot him, stab him, or run him over with my car. And no judge would accept my plea that it “was a crazy day.”

      Words are not, actually, an assault that would permit self defense. The self defense of mean words is to use your feet, and vote with your presence.

    4. I agree with you, but any minute now, there will be a court case that will set a legal precedent to be used in the future. Kind of like the people who defaced the monuments in Charlottesville and walked away. It is coming….

  11. It’s doubtful that anyone would have objected had the professor phrased the hypothetical as Professor Turley has here. The issue could still be fully discussed with complete understanding.

    But is seems the DePaul professor preferred to use the actual slur instead of phrasing it as “the n-word.” I guess he couldn’t resist.

    1. fiver:
      “But is seems the DePaul professor preferred to use the actual slur instead of phrasing it as “the n-word.” I guess he couldn’t resist.”


      You got that slur thing down.

  12. Maybe in future classes the hypothetical question will go more like this: A white teacher uses the n-word to try to educate his students, this causes snowflake students to be “triggered”, does the teacher get to keep his job?

  13. >> A white supremacist at a funeral of a civil rights leader uses the N-word, causing the crowd to come after him. If the white supremacist shoots and kills someone, can he claim self-defense?<<

    Do you see the hypocrisy you are engaged in here? You're calling out the students for being upset that the professor used the word n!gger in describing a hypothetical legal issue, but you won't use it yourself to describe the controversy.

    Do you realize that when people read "N-word", the computer in our head goes through an inefficient process to translate the the word back into n!gger? It's like pig Latin. The speaker goes through a laborious process to translate words into coded nonsense, then the receiver of the message who knows the code has to translate the nonsense back into English to give the words meaning. It's probably a good exercise to strengthen cognitive ability, but it's an inefficient way to communicate.

    I get that you are a nice guy who values civility and dignity for all people. But if you believe in free speech, why are you afraid to honestly report what the professor said? It doesn't make you a bigot, or racist, or whatever to honestly describe the controversy. It makes you honest.

    The thought controllers have infested your mind, too.

    1. “But if you believe in free speech, why are you afraid to honestly report what the professor said?”

      One could go either way on this. If he had used the word, fine. But he probably decided that it wasn’t necessary to use it in this case, and that using it would be unnecessarily provocative. That’s also ok. He’s used the word many times in the past; he’s not afraid to use it:

  14. This is the edge of the blade that cuts both ways. The ‘N’ word, (If I wrote it out would my thoughts be posted?), used in a purely academic manner to illustrate a point by referencing a history that, unfortunately, did exist and still exists to some degree today; would that I was afforded that privilege/freedom, would there not be those that abused that freedom by using the same word, cloaked in that academic manner, in a disparaging manner? The question is not an all or nothing freedom of speech issue, such as The Peter takes for his edited and perverse interpretation of the second amendment, but the functioning of rights exercised responsibly in that society that protects and is protected by said rights.

    If the professor tossed about words that are hateful and offensive to some or perhaps most, such as to illustrate issues of abuses of women, children, etc., just as with this instance, one might ask ‘What is the professor’s intent here?’ He could just as easily used the ‘N’ word reference to make his point.

    Perhaps freedom of speech comes with some guidelines. Inciting to violence, threatening, etc. Perhaps this society might reflect on how vile some aspects of its past truly were to understand the weight of the ‘N’ word. America has sacred words that are routinely interpreted to advance ideologies that are not shared by the majority, ideologies that indirectly take the lives of thousands of innocents. This perversity visited on those words so revered might just have an opposite condition where there are words that should be tempered.

    That Blacks use the ‘N’ word amongst themselves as an illustration of ownership can be argued either way. However, The issue of America’s slavery past is not something that can be dismissed with a few laws. It will take generation upon generation, law upon law, understanding upon understanding, and will not happen over night.

    1. “However, The issue of America’s slavery past is not something that can be dismissed with a few laws. It will take generation upon generation, law upon law, understanding upon understanding, and will not happen over night.”


      It just never ends, eh Issac? Even if you were never part of it or even its aftermath via Jim Crow. It’s like a scarlet letter in your view with no reprieve possible and every sin of every father visited on every son even if your father had no part in it at all or wasn’t even in the country. Pretty neat scam: Perpetual victims who complain and perpetual culprits who pay. What a terrible way to go through life.

      1. mespo727272

        You are so close to the tree, you fail to understand that there is a forest. Dismissing something as tragic as the hundreds of years of slavery in the US and the ongoing adjustments is escapism. The history of America’s travesties in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the slaughter of millions is seen as the tree of political will against political will, ideology against ideology; not the result of endless forests of colonial adventures of the strongest against the weakest, something that has been going on for ever throughout humanity. Slavery is shared by almost all nations and the colonial ones most of all. The reality for all but the US is that the economies of these preceding colonial powers that were built on slavery was distant and in those foreign lands. Only recently have the former slaves and conquered come to live in the countries that once visited their beliefs upon the weakest.

        Unfortunately for the US, that same economy, something for nothing, supported a huge proportion of the overall well being of the nation, and was the primary economic engine of the South. These crimes were committed next door and in the next room. They were allowed to happen as much as they were done by the perpetrators; up until not so very long ago. America’s past is easily dismissed when 50 to 60 thousand of her sons die and the slaughter of the millions of innocents takes place on the other side of the world. That is human nature. America, in its eyes has suffered more for the loss of its soldiers that Vietnam for the loss of almost three million. Such is the case with human nature.

        Colonial slaughter, slavery, racism, imbalance, etc; the closer to home the harder to confront. No one alive today was directly a part of it. However there are still those that yearn to see it disappear and use the argument that They should have sorted themselves out by now. In which closet do you hang your coat, Mespo727272? The ingredients that create slavery, racism, bigotry, etc are not uniquely found in the US. As a Canadian/American who has lived abroad, I can take part in any conversation of this sort, that revolves around human nature. As an American, by choice, I can take part in any conversation unique to this issue. Perhaps those with their head buried up where the sun don’t shine are less qualified, even though they were born here.

        1. I take injustice on a case-by-case basis. Mass righteousness and mass injustice are abstracts incapable of indictment or punishment.

    2. Damn, Isaac, you are going to milk slavery for all its worth, aren’t you? Four or five generations down the road, and still going strong. Just like Enigma. What maroons, you two are. Slavery is just your stupid excuse so that you won’t have to face the 77% illegitimate birth rate among blacks. Yassir, boss, it be dat ole slabery dat causes dem babies!


      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

  15. Dear Sir.
    Can you suggest a book that chronicles the deliberations by our founders leading up to the pening of the Bill of Rights.

    1. Paul,

      Unfortunately, it seems the professor has no more idea than his students. He appears to be a pure academic who hasn’t practiced a day in his life. His blurb on the DePaul site doesn’t even list a bar admission let alone any attorney positions.

  16. (music- to the tune of Hotnuts)
    Snow Flakes!
    Call em Snow Flakes!
    What kind of people are Snow Flakes?
    Dumb kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks.
    Fat kids, weeny kids,…
    Even kids with chicken pox…
    Are Snow Flakes.
    The kids… dogs like… to Bite!

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