The University of Southern California removed business professor Greg Patton from the classroom after he made a point of using a Chinese word that some says sounds like the “N” word in English, the International Business Times reports.
Patton teaches clinical business communication at USC’s Marshall School of Business. Administrators asked him to withdraw from the classroom and replaced him with a substitute after a group of Black MBA students say his multiple use of the Chinese word showed “negligence and disregard.”
In an email obtained by the National Review, the students wrote “It is an uneasy feeling allowing him to have the 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.”
Greg Patton reportedly was lecturing about the use of filler words in various languages, including Chinese.
“In China the common word is ‘that, that that that,’ so in China it might be ‘nega, nega, nega, nega,'” Patton said in class, according to Reason. “So there’s different words you’ll hear in different cultures, but they’re vocal disfluencies.”
USC explained its decision in a statement released to Reason.
“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,” the statement read.
USC’s described Patton’s removal from the classroom as a “short term pause,” and confirmed another professor is temporarily stepping in.
“No matter what way you look at this, the word was said multiple times today in three different instances and has deeply affected us, the MBA students said in their letter. “In light of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the recent and continued collective protests and social awakening across the nation, we cannot let this stand.”
“It was confirmed that the pronunciation of this word is much different than what Professor Patton described in class,” the students wrote. “The word is most commonly used with a pause in between both syllables. In addition, we have lived abroad in China and have taken Chinese language courses at several colleges and this phrase, clearly and precisely before instruction is always identified as a phonetic homonym and a racial derogatory term, and should be carefully used, especially in the context of speaking Chinese within the social context of the United States.”
Patton acknowledged in a letter that he failed “to realize all the many different additional ways that a particular example may be heard across audiences members based on their own lived experiences.
“Given the difference in sounds, accent, context and language, I did not connect this in the moment to any English words and certainly not any racial slur,” Greg Patton wrote.
You can hear him say the word in this zoom recording.
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According to the National Review, Black MBA students who sat in on the lecture say it left them