Judy Morelock, a University of Tennessee Knoxville professor, was fired after student Kayla Parker alleged that after a debate about the history of slavery went south, she was called racist by the lecturer.
"I’ve never seen this before," Parker said on Medium's Student Voices titled, "Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: The Tale of A Progressive Professor Who Forgot To Hide Her Racism And Got Her A** Fired."
"I was shocked," she wrote. "I knew it was something out of the ordinary when I saw her posting on my Facebook, because I’ve never seen a professor do that."
On the site, Parker describes herself as a "queer, Black, and fed up feminist."
Parker claimed that though Morelock wore a safety pin as an accessory to prove that she's an ally for minorities and is aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement, nothing shook Morelock "more than a confident, Black woman contradicting her in front of a classroom of her own students."
The two faced off after Morelock issued a multiple choice quiz to her class, where Parker was in attendance.
Parker said the question read:
Historical research on African-American families during slavery shows that: A) Family ties weren’t important in African cultures where the slaves ancestors originated; consequently, family bonds were never strong among slaves. B) Two-parent families were extremely rare during the slave period. C) Black family bonds were destroyed by the abuses of slave owners, who regularly sold off family members to other slave owners. D) Most slave families were headed by two parents.
Parker said that she chose C, but that the answer was marked wrong.
Parker reported that Morelock advised her that D was the correct answer, and to clarify Parker emailed Morelock for further clarification on her response. In her email, Parker added information that supported her original answer.
According to Parker, Morelock continued to disagree with Parker, and later posted about their discussion on Facebook, where she and her friends and family discussed Parker's email.
Parker alleged that after she became aware of Morelock's Facebook post, the teacher-student relationship deteriorated.
She claimed that Morelock began "making backhanded comments directed at me."
"For example," she wrote, "'Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to bring the textbook to class today because my bag is full of other texts for a student who requires further evidence on subjects I teach in class.'"
Parker alleged that Morelock figuratively opened up the platform for Parker to lecture the class on the topic of slavery, which was livestreamed on Facebook.
A week after Parker lectured the class, she alleged that Morelock shared further comments about Parker on Facebook.
According to Parker, some of the comments included:
"'She’s on LinkedIn trying to establish professional contacts, this should be fun!'"
"'After the semester is over and she is no longer my student, I will post her name, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.. after she graduates, all bets are off.'"
"'I don’t forget malevolent attempts to harm me. #karmawillfindyou.'"
"'Ignore the facts, promote a misinformed viewpoint, trash me and I will fight you.'"
After the alleged comments went viral, the University of Tennessee allowed Parker to be transferred out of the class, and Morelock was removed from her position at the school and placed on administrative leave.
Upon Morelock's removal, she wrote to her class on Facebook and said, "A student and her friends posted inflammatory, derogatory, libelous comments on her Facebook page and demeaned my character, honesty, and integrity ... Nonetheless, she filed a complaint against me with [the University] administration and they decided she has the right to impugn my character but I had no right to defend myself. Consequently, I’ve been placed on administration leave and will likely be terminated this week."
Morelock was terminated after her final Facebook post to her class, and the remainder of her contract — which was set to expire in July — was bought out by the university.
After her firing, Morelock reportedly spoke to a reporter on Facebook and said, "For this woman to publicly call me a racist is outrageous and unconscionable, as promoting racial justice has been a large part of my life's work."
Parker revealed that Morelock shared a post prior to being fired that she interpreted to be a direct jab.
The posting was a purportedly a meme that read, "Please accept this complimentary dildo, and go f**k yourself."
Though Parker was adamant that Morelock did not use any racial epithets or pejoratives, she felt that the way Morelock responded to Parker's correction exhibited "racism."
"If students can’t raise questions in class, it’s not a thriving, healthy academic institution," she wrote. "College is supposed to be a place where you can agree and disagree and have intellectual discussions and that's all I was trying to do."