But just because teachers can say the N-word doesn`t mean they should. For some teachers in some contexts, the N word is the right methodological and pedagogical choice. Collective agreements are too blunt instruments to define the considerations that make the right choice and must therefore build a vast network. But teachers who pronounce the word N or any other hateful defamation have a moral responsibility to understand the power and potential damage of these words and to try to weigh their scientific goals against the goal of cultivating stimulating and welcoming learning environments for students of all races and genders. Teachers cannot be fired because they are wrong on the academic freedom side and not on the inclusion side, but that should not prevent us from thinking that they made the wrong call. Moreover, while there is broad (but not universal) consensus that whites should not pronounce the word N, academic freedom, as enshrined in collective agreements and other governance documents, does not make the protection of academic freedom dependent on race or the social location of scholars. While there may be different standards for who can say the word in N (as the English professor and N-Wort expert Neal A. Lester of Arizona State University jokingly says: “There are double standards on many things.), the rules of academic freedom are the same for everyone. To be honest, if you can`t fire a black teacher, if he says the N-word, you can`t fire a white one to say it. Visit the University of St. Jerome Academic Staff Association website for a comprehensive summary of the topics related to the collective agreement between the association and Saint Jerome University, or send an email to SJU ASA President Veronica Austen firstname.lastname@example.org.
In contrast, Professor Persinger had students sign a statement of understanding acknowledging that the teacher would use a wide range of offensive language in class to help students learn not to react emotionally to those words; the same document confirmed that students could say what they wanted in class, whether “politically correct” or not. Laurentian suspended Professor Persinger because of the practice, but late last year an arbitrator ruled that the university was unduly violating its academic freedom. As unconventional (and arguably irresponsible) Professor Persinger`s approach was that his academic freedom, as enshrined in his collective agreement, allowed him to maintain this approach. Vershawn Ashanti Young, a professor of dramatic and vocal communication at U of Waterloo, wrote in The Conversation that, as his research “directly theorizes the word N,” the university`s testimony gave him the feeling that he had to stop doing his job to keep his job.
Posted Apr 12th, 2021