The Ethics Mess That Is U.S. Race Relations, Chapter V: Oklahoma University Loses Its Mind [UPDATED]

Kathleen Brosnan, an Oklahoma University faculty member in the history department, read from a 1920’s U.S. Senate document that included the word “nigger”multiple times.  In another episode, Peter Gade, director of graduate studies for the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication and Gaylord Family endowed chair, compared the use of  “nigger”  to current use  of the phrase “OK, boomer.” (Interesting analogy! Ill-advised, but interesting…) Nobody contends that the word was aimed at any individual or intended to denigrate a race. Nonetheless, laboring under the misconception that words can be banned in the United States, campus protesters calling themselves the “Black Emergency Response Team,” or BERT, have issued a set of demands including the immediate resignation of Provost Kyle Harper, mandatory diversity training for faculty and a new multicultural center.

At one point they also demanded a Popeye’s restaurant on campus, but that one seems to have been abandoned as trivializing their cause.


The protestors have begun a hunger strike—no, not just no Popeye’s: behave!—- and have pledged not to leave the administration building they are occupying until their demands are met.( Boy, am I having flashbacks to Harvard Yard, 1968! )Foolishly, the  university’s interim President Joseph Harroz Jr. has apologized for both incidents, calling them unacceptable. (It is not “unacceptable’ to use any word for legitimate pedagogical purposes at a university ) and pledged to require all faculty to undergo diversity training. Here is an excerpt from his letter:

“We are all weary of racially charged incidents occurring within our university community could have made the point without reciting the actual word, [but] she chose otherwise. Her issuance of a ‘trigger warning’ before her recitation does not lessen the pain caused by the use of the word. For students in the class, as well as members of our community, this was another painful experience. It is common sense to avoid uttering the most offensive word in the English language, especially in an environment where the speaker holds the power.”

He is a spineless, principle-free coward, and if the faculty was any better, it would demand the HE resign. Naturally, however, many on the faculty are siding with the students, since they are at least partially responsible for them being this way.

As is always the way with such things, the students are dragging in any other grievances against Provost Harper, one going back 20 years:

Earlier this week Harper released a statement saying his office would work to make students feel comfortable while also working to “honor the fundamental boundaries of the First Amendment.’” That is impossible. If students are going to claim that it harms their psyches and ears to hear or read mere words in the context of linguistic, historical or cultural discussions, all an institution should do is inform them that they misunderstand the purpose of education, the necessity of freedom of expression to communicate ideas, and the how the world must work to function. Such students should be required to attend a course including the reading and analysis of “Huckleberry Finn” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “as well as required viewings of  “In the Heat of the Night” and “Blazing Saddles,” or, in the alternative, to find another place to get their college degrees.

Since the acting president has already apologized, however, such a rational resolution appears unlikely.


Sources: The Oklahoman, College Fix

19 thoughts on “The Ethics Mess That Is U.S. Race Relations, Chapter V: Oklahoma University Loses Its Mind [UPDATED]

  1. When college presidents start to tell students they cannot protect their fragile emotional health from language that might cause them discomfort in the edcational process and will issue prorated tuition refunds to any student that cannot handle the stress only then will they begin regain control if the asylum.

  2. I am just feeling tempted to stop referring to X-words (b, c, d, f, l, n, q, r, etc.) as anything other than Voldemort, the V-word. That way: you know it’s a word that should not be said without actually saying it.

    Sure, Huck will be calling Jim Voldemort through half the book, but it will be less offensive than substituting “N-Word” in every other sentence.


    • ““Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

      Using literature to fight the censorship of words is a great idea.

      Though I wonder if J.K. Rowling would agree with the statement she herself wrote when it comes to the word “nigger”.

  3. “the university’s interim President Joseph Harroz Jr. has apologized for both incidents, calling them unacceptable.”

    My recent experiences (last six months) on a college campus has shown me that the irrational social justice warriors are beginning to outnumber the rest of the student population and the ones that haven’t fallen into the social justice fold are remaining silent, dead silent.

    I keep on saying it and I won’t stop; the irrational social justice warriors have already won the battle of the minds across the metropolitan areas of the United States, damn near all college campuses and infiltrating everything with their irrational poison including local governments and school boards and this is just one more small example that piles on the evidence to prove my argument. It’s happening over and over again and it will not stop until there is a HUGE public blow up somewhere and the shit really hits the fan because some company or University didn’t bow to the irrational social justice army of lunatics.

    “National left-wing organizations are collecting and funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to flip local city councils, school boards, and county prosecutors’ offices to the left. They are flooding small elections with big money, and it’s giving them unprecedented influence over our local affairs and greater access to our children.”
    The Far Left’s Strategy to Control Your Community

    This is what we are seeing in the Madison Wisconsin area.

  4. The previous OU President threw an entire fraternity out of their house for using the same word (in a less academic sense). He punished those who committed the offense and those who were over a hundred miles away. Mere association was enough. This was supported wholeheartedly by the media and yet still called inadequate. This is just the obvious consequence of that previous action. The faculty Senate has attacked these current faculty members instead of supporting them. Their inability to stand up to academic freedom in the face of political correctness shows the majority of the faculty are useless as educators. The first faculty member made a huge mistake in my opinion by apologizing and calling his own actions ‘inexcusable’. If he was going to say that, he should have just resigned.

  5. I’d suggest a response along these lines:

    “This is an institution of higher learning. You are here today because you were judged as possessing the intellectual fortitude to confront difficult and troubling truths. This includes the truth about terrible things that were done in our history, and terrible words that were said or written. If we were mistaken in our judgement, we offer our heartfelt apologies. We have no wish to inflict these truths on you against your will. The door is there.”

    • Davel, I am with you on this idea but couldn’t have written it as well. It should be presented for the students to sign before they enroll. It might also teach them to read and consider documents before they sign them. They will soon learn that anyway, usually by a hard and expensive way.

  6. I don’t know if I’ve said it before here, but if the Language Policy want to be effective, they need to understand the difference in “Using”, “Quoting”, and “Referencing”.

    Then with the understanding of these distinctions, “Quoting” and “Referencing” are instances that are purely Academic in nature.

    The Focus should truly be on people who “Use” the slur, who “Employ” the slur against another individual in context and full meaning of causing disparagement.

    I’m sure I’m probably naive in this assessment and there’s probably a hole or two here that I haven’t considered, but I think this axiom should become well established through our society if we want to overcome race-baiting and division.

  7. Can we surmise that at least some of the democrats’ current problems with Bernie, et al., stem from years of this sort of spineless pandering? They accepted the establishment of the formula: Make demands (with or without any rational underlying issue); pitch a fit (legal or illegal action); get what you want (no matter how absurd, or unrelated), pay no price. Achieving the irrational is acceptable and free.

    Now they’re being rewarded with the monster they created no longer being entirely under their control.

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