Professor Suspended After Reading Literary Work Using N-Word

We have previously discussed protests over professors using the n-word in hypotheticals or as part of a course on hate speech. Professors are being denied basic academic freedom over such content to courses. The most recent such action was taken against Professor Phil Adamo of Minneapolis’s Augsburg University. He has been suspended for using the n-word during a classroom discussion about a James Baldwin book which uses the word.

Adamo was teaching Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and quoted this line: “You can really only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a n—–.” Baldwin used the full word in context and students objected. Baldwin addressed the issue of the use of this word as part of text and discussion.

Adamo was later relieved of his duties as head of the school’s Honors Program because he discussed “essays on the history of the word.” Adamo tried to make the “distinction between use and mention.” In other words, “To use the word, to inflict pain or harm, is unacceptable. To mention the word, in a discussion of how the word is used, is necessary for honest discourse.”

That distinction was clearly lost on some students who posted a taped class  on YouTube under the title “Phil Adamo Justifying Use of N-Word.”

The incident reflects a growing unease among professors that they are not afforded basic academic freedom over the content of their classes, including using words that are the subject of research or actually mentioned in literary works.

What do you think?

63 thoughts on “Professor Suspended After Reading Literary Work Using N-Word”

  1. “China has started ranking citizens with a creepy ‘social credit’ system — here’s what you can do wrong, and the embarrassing, demeaning ways they can punish you.”

    “China plans to rank all its citizens based on their “social credit” by 2020.
    People can be rewarded or punished according to their scores.
    Like private financial credit scores, a person’s social scores can move up and down according to their behavior.
    At the moment the system is piecemeal — some are run by city councils, while others are scored by private tech platforms that hold personal data..
    The Chinese state is setting up a vast ranking system that will monitor the behavior of its enormous population, and rank them all based on their “social credit.”
    The “social credit system,” first announced in 2014, aims to reinforce the idea that “keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful,” according to a government document.
    The program is due to be fully operational nationwide by 2020, but is being piloted for millions of people across the country already. The scheme will be mandatory.
    At the moment the system is piecemeal — some are run by city councils, others are scored by private tech platforms which hold personal data.
    Like private credit scores, a person’s social score can move up and down depending on their behavior. The exact methodology is a secret — but examples of infractions include bad driving, smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games and posting fake news online.
    1. Banning you from flying or getting the train.
    2. Throttling your internet speeds.
    3. Banning you — or your kids — from the best schools.
    4. Stopping you getting the best jobs.
    5. Keeping you out of the best hotels. People who refused military service were also banned from some holidays and hotels.
    6. Getting your dog taken away.
    7. Being publicly named as a bad citizen.
    Naming and shaming is another tactic available. A a 2016 government notice encourages companies to consult the blacklist before hiring people or giving them contracts. However, people will be notified by the courts before they are added to the list, and are allowed to appeal against the decision within ten days of receiving the notification. It’s not clear when the list will start to be implemented.”

    – Business Insider

  2. Augsburg accepts 60% of applicants and 40% of those accepted never graduate. A religious school for dimwits; doubtless critical thinking skills are not taught.

    1. A religious school for dimwits; doubtless critical thinking skills are not taught

      Before you call other people ‘dimwits’, you might learn what the metric on graduation rates actually means. Its not a reference to the number who graduate, but to the number who complete the BA degree in 8 semesters.

      1. A fair point however the standard metric for graduation rates reported by virtually every college or university is six years or 12 semesters.

    2. “A religious school for dimwits; doubtless critical thinking skills are not taught.”

      Don’t strain yourself overtaxing your own critical thinking skills there, Acromion.

      1. The David Hogg-wannabe fancies there are seriously religious schools associated with mainline protestant denominations. If he’d bothered to check Augusburg’s website, he’d have seen the same buzzwords every other school uses. If he’d read their historical precis, he’d have seen the telltale signs that the chump who ran the place between 1963 and 1980 wanted it to be anything but a seriously Lutheran institution.

    3. I think your argument needs a little more critical thinking.

      St. John’s College (Annapolis) has an acceptance rate of almost is arguably the most intellectual school in America.

      Linking student ability to college admissions statistics is ‘dimwitted’.

  3. What do I think? Higher education is run by smarmy bureaucratic microbes who aren’t fit to be put in charge of a Chia pet. The question for you is why such losers are invariably in charge in the places where you work.

  4. Change the course title to Pimping the Pandered Mind and do not make the mistake of hoping for the best. Only two higher education schools accept zero government funding the rest are lost somewhere between useless and ‘of no use.’

  5. Did de po liddo snowflakes get their feelings hurt or just the required ‘someone may?’ Perish the thought they ever go to a real school with real education instead of this government funded crap.

  6. It sure looks like its getting more and more crazy on the American ground. … But as European, worse German, I have been wondering about the misconceptions about European “hate speech” for very, very long time now? Two decades? See “antonio” above. Below?

    Absolutely crazy, no doubt considering the prof’s field. Could this be a campaign? Baldwin on first sight

    Irony alert: “Woman are the niggers of the world”, came to mind following closely more vague memories of people turning the term around and proudly declaring themselves niggers. … Alluding to the generation when all the evil started subverting the American way of life.

    Judith Butler’s struggles too:

    Interesting topic. But not enough time to look into it to the extend I would like. But yes, looks like my first suspicion was correct:
    “Hanging Little Joe on the Suburban Ponderosa, Or, What has the Middle Ages to do with the Old West?” 30 to 40 Years West of Here, edited by Colin Irvine, special edition of the Journal of the West(2015)

  7. Here’s the detail on what happened according to

    “Several students who were not enrolled in Adamo’s class evidently caught wind of what had happened, and showed up for his next session. They went so far as to ask Adamo to leave his own class while they discussed his behavior; eager to placate them, Adamo exited. When he returned, students continued to scrutinize his decision to use the word, and secretly recorded his responses.

    The recording is audio-only, so it’s impossible to tell how many students are expressing dissatisfaction with the professor—or even how many students are in the class. Throughout the exchange, Adamo barely defends himself, mostly deferring to the students’ insistence that he had wronged them. The students assert that they are holding him accountable for making marginalized students feel unsafe.

    “You have a right to always feel safe and feel like you are wanted here and that you can speak in the class,” says one student. “Especially if you are a first generation student of color, you should never feel outed by that.”

    Mortified that he made the students so upset, Adamo asks what he should do next. A student suggests he cancel class, and the professor agrees.”

    Former professional clown and medieval scholar with a specialty in “death bed entry” into monastic life, Phil Adamo, just confirmed that he traded in his testicles when he donned his mortar board. Cowardly fleeing his own classroom at the sight of these petty tyrants, Adamo deserves neither our sympathy nor our respect. He’s just another liberal sycophant hoisted on the lance of emancipation politics which holds that societal institutions exist for one purpose — to defend so-called “marginalized groups” at the expense of their claimed oppressors I.e. heterosexual white males. If it sounds familiar, you’ve read Marx, Engles or Mao. Banished to the Wal-Mart customer hinterlands by the Thought Control princes (and more likely princesses), Adamo just realized what a “death bed entry” into the monastic life really means. Kill your own self-respect, then spend the rest of your days wandering around some ruin of your former manhood begging amends and chanting to the PC god “ All resistance is futile.” Yep, the guy really never stopped being a clown. In pace requiescat..

              1. I noticed Paul was out, hopefully everything is ok.

                I see Nick is back in & out.

                & now that we’ve lived through another Tuesday let’s all get out there & kick some Commie/Nazi American Hatin Trash tomorrow!

                Lynyrd Skynyrd – Tuesday’s Gone

    1. Well, you are tough in your rhetoric but I have to agree….if Professors don’t stand up for the right to honest and open discourse then how can the Universities support them in that? We are all targets now of those tyrannical accusations….but I have to wonder, how much ‘suffering’ are these students having that they feel they have a right to invade a class they are not even registered to….that seems less like suffering and more like entitlement…..and why would that Prof let them in????? Scary times…

      1. Becka:

        They are really courageous times. Or the opportunity to be so.

        As for tough rhetoric, it’s really the best kind: “Give me reasonable concessions to assuage my concerns about incursions into my and my countrymen’s personal freedom or give me an untimely earthly demise,” just doesn’t strike the right tone.

    2. The administrators aren’t the only smarmy characters in the institution.

      The admissions officers recruited the obstreperous jerks in their student body (giving quite a number of them mulligans in the admissions process, it’s a reasonable wager). There likely isn’t one shmuck on the faculty willing to object vociferously. The dean of students refuses to sanction the obstreperous jerks for getting in the face of the faculty.

      If you want to fix higher education, you have to take governance of it away from the people who have it now, as they are stupid and hopeless.

    3. From what you quoted Professor Adamo certainly sealed his own fate. He displayed such weakness that even a sprinkling of snowflakes could p0wn him. The result was inevitable.

      Nobody respects a coward, including the coward himself.

  8. I think we should blacklist colleges and universities which show lameness. But wait. Where did that term “blacklist” come from?
    Maybe we should use pig latin all across America and in our schools to say words which are cuss words or somehow evil. How many of you folks know what “itShay” means?

  9. “Adamo was teaching Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and quoted this line: “You can really only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a n—–.” Baldwin used the full word in context and students objected. Baldwin addressed the issue of the use of this word as part of text and discussion.”

    JT brings this article forward to discuss the obvious. Yet even he himself chose to censor himself and did not spell the word but felt it imperative to write it as “n——“

    Why is that?

  10. I wonder what Anne Franke would say. She was called “a friggin Jew”. It was said in German. One aspect of the red neck era of America was the use of the N word to deplore a race. The books by Mark Twain cannot be read or discussed in some schools because the author employed the N word to accurately portray the way things were.
    That was life on the Mississippi or life in Missouri. Critics need to go down the Mississippi and miss the turn up the Ohio. This summer I hear them coming. They’re probably on their way. Gotta get down to it. Professors are cutting us down. How can we run when we know?

      1. Four protesters died at Kent State for protesting. That was America in 1970. It is still America. No freedom.

    1. Lib2, yes, if you cannot even say the word you cannot have a decent and effective discussion that enacts real change. How can you change what you cannot say? How can you correct a thing that is denied ? That word was and is used. To hide it away gives it more power than any discussion could ever give it, it becomes unstoppable….
      …I especially found it enlightening to learn that the phrase ‘nigger in the woodpile’ was born of the Underground Railroads actual flight to freedom….just sayin, that is a powerful word on both sides of the equation ….

  11. In 15 years the United States will have European style “hate speech” laws and offenders will not only be ostracized but prosecuted for such things. The trends are already there. It’s going to happen and leftists will implement them with a straight face, all while professing to respect the First Amendment. And old style, decent liberals like Professor Turley will called “Nazi” for opposing such laws.

    1. I am not sure sure if Americans can ever fully understand what “European style ‘hate speech'” means, beyond sloganeering that is. As far as I know incitement sets some limits to American ‘free speech’ too.

      Besides, what did free speech mean at the time of its coinage as such? Ever spent a second to reflect on that?

      What’s your first hand evidence on how those matters are handled in Europe. Who do you feel should not have been ostracized or prosecuted.

    2. Antonio:
      Interesting prediction but not likely. The Left via #Metoo and now the Ralph Northam mess is slowly realizing that these PC rules aren’t catching their intended victims — conservative men. They’re catching their own. That means the movement will slowly peter out with discovery of new found compassion and piously proclaimed redemption. Thus the PC religion saves face and members.

  12. Life everything else nowadays, education too is a victim of the ongoing dismantlement process of everything vital for civilization to exist. Students are apparently not taught critical thinking skills, logic and analysis of facts any more, and definently not self awareness, life skills or history. Those skills have been replaced with the skills of:
    •Remaining in a constant state of hypervigilence, desparately scanning everyone and everything looking to zero in on the next outrage trigger. ( It doesn’t matter if that trigger is real, imagined, truth or lie or even applies to the triggered ragers life. )

    •Refining ignorance, tantrum throwing demands and extreme stupidity into a high art.

    •Complete destruction and eradication of the offending trigger by inflicting as much pain as possible and/or destroying by whatever means necessary the offending trigger

    •Perfect memorization of the narrative and absolute allegiance and obedience to the cause.

    PC society is heading down the slippery insanity slope at warp speed and has almost reached the bottom. Now the social norm of persons life seems to revolve around trying to live out some kind mythical set of Cosmic Rights to:

    •Never to be offended.

    •Never take responsibility.

    •Never respect the Rights and lives of others.

    •Always rage against reality that contradicts your delusions

    Capitulating to this bunch of punk rampant brownshirting bullies by destroying this mans career is only validating hate and violence against learning, knowledge, evolving, actualizing, free thinking, individuality and the basic moral glue that holds civilization together, not to mention basic human rights.
    It was only a matter of time before the socially engineered mindless stormtrooping little foot soldiers created by the education system turned on their creators and started to do to them the same thing they are sent out to do to others.
    After wrecking this guys life, the students can pat themselves on the back for a job well done, trot back to the dorm, kick back with a beer and reward themselves by ordering brand new NO H8 tee shirts from Amazon, which also sells over 10,000 products with the words ni**er and ni**a on or in them like the cool “STILL N***A baseball cap and Kanye West’s ever popular N!**@s in Paris.

    1. Thankfully, it’s still a small number of typically unqualified students milling around looking to be offended. The kids I’ve met fresh off the campuses think these radicalized nut jobs are just that.

  13. A lot of it has to do with the way children are raised these days. Ever notice how many men call their sons “buddy”? In my day, we were called “son” and taught to respect adults. Now kids are taught to be precocious little know-it-alls who think of adults as peers who can be lectured to. Some first year college student dressing down her professor and he sits there and takes it like a chump! Had he a backbone, he would have shown her the door and suggested she go home and give some serious thought as to whether she is mature and open minded enough to remain in the class.

    1. My father occasionally called me ‘buddy’, never ‘son’. The midpoint of his tour in child-rearing was > 50 years ago.

  14. I’m with George Carlin on this point. Words have histories one must be mindful of but a society that can’t or refuses to differentiate between “proper” and “improper” uses of such words (to the point where, in the case of “nigger”, one must resort to infantile euphemisms like “the n word” to avoid facing an unpleasant past or present), is not a society that is on the political or moral rise.

  15. Ridiculous! Baldwin discussed the use of that word, and any serious engagement with his work requires addressing his biews of its use.

  16. Academics have nobody but themselves to blame for allowing, and in many cases actually encouraging, this to happen. In Professor Adamo’s case he suffered the inevitable end-result of pandering to the groupthink that prevails on campuses.

    He will certainly stand alone because I suspect few of his peers will be willing to come to his defense because they are either cowards or will not want to be judged as hypocrites. So they will just stay along the edges and watch him go down, hoping that they will not be next but are unwilling to say anything. In fact, probably a quarter of them probably will berate Professor Adamo preemptively.

  17. Apparently we must suspend teaching history. Lest certain among us b overwhelmed and in mortal distress such that only pandering calms them.

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