Greg Patton, a communications professor at the University of California’s Marshall School of Business who is an “expert in communication, interpersonal and leadership effectiveness,” according to his faculty bio, was explaining the common use of a Chinese filler word for “that,” comparing it to (regrettable American words such as “like,” “um,” “uh”…you know, filler. The Chinese word he spoke sounds similar to “an English language racial slur.” Of course, since any news source doing its job will burst into flame and its employees immediately dropped into Hell if it actually prints the word so we can know what has happened, I can only guess what the word the professor didn’t say sounded like. (See The Niggardly Principles)
Ah HA! finally found it. The Chinese word is “na ge,” pronounced “nah geh.”
(Can you believe it’s come to this??)
So because the professor used a word that sounded like that mystery Word That Can Not Be Told, though nobody thought he was really using that word, but some students just wanted to signal their virtue and cause him trouble, USC has placed Patton on leave while another instructor teaches the class.
Hold on to your head and read this statement from Marshall (Great, now I have to change my name out of shame.):
“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..” Well, that’s a non sequitur! It isn’t racist language, is it? The Greek word for “good morning” and the Greek word for “squid” sound alike if you don’t know Greek. Is a Greek calling you a squid because you misunderstood him?
The statement went on to say that Professor Patton “agreed to take a short term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps.” What’s there to understand? He did nothing wrong. What next steps?
Now, USC says, it is “offering supportive measures to any student, faculty, or staff member who requests assistance” and is committed to building a culture of respect and dignity where all members of our community can feel safe, supported, and can thrive.”
Except for professors, who must live in fear of cheap shot complaints like this one, and craven administrators who let students succeed with them.
I have no sympathy for Prof. Patton if he submits to this. He has an obligation to fight it, and, if necessary embarrass the school. If he just meekly slinks away to be “re-educated,” then he’s complicit in this frightening campaign of intimidation and censorship.