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USC communications prof booted from class for uttering Chinese word that sounds like racial slur in English


School actually released statement saying 'we acknowledge the historical, cultural, and harmful impact of racist language'

Image source: YouTube screenshot

It used to be that college professors found themselves in hot water after uttering racial slurs as part of classroom discussions — you know, speech that's part of the learning process.

Well, now it appears that if a professor utters a word in class from a foreign language that sounds like an English-language racial slur, the prof might be toast, too.

What are the details?

Don't believe it? Well, a communications professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business is now on a short-term break after saying a Chinese word during an online class that sounded like a version of a well-known racial slur in English, Campus Reform said.

Seems that Greg Patton — a professor of clinical business communication who's an "expert in communication, interpersonal and leadership effectiveness" — was explaining the usage of a Chinese filler word for "that" and comparing it to English fillers such as "like" and "um," the outlet reported.

And when Patton uttered the Chinese word, its pronunciation apparently sounded too close to a version of the N-word.

Here's the clip:


How did USC respond?

USC's Marshall School of Business confirmed to Campus Reform in a statement that Patton isn't teaching his course at present.

"Recently, a USC faculty member during class used a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English," the statement noted, according to the outlet. "We acknowledge the historical, cultural, and harmful impact of racist language."

Patton "agreed to take a short-term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps," the statement added, according to Campus Reform.

The outlet noted that another instructor is temporarily teaching the class.

Oh, and USC 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," Campus Reform added.

'This is a whole new level of stupidity'

The outlet said Patton didn't immediately reply to a request for comment, but other folks who viewed the video were quite enthusiastic about offering their two cents on the kerfuffle:

  • "This is a whole new level of stupidity," one commenter noted.
  • "As someone who speaks Chinese, this is literally another language. No, my people did not think about how it sounded like the N-word when we created it thousands of years ago," another commenter said.
  • "I consider myself a liberal and condemn racial discrimination. However, this professor did NOTHING WRONG!" another commenter noted. "I speak Chinese/Cantonese myself. If this professor cannot show how Chinese people utter, 'em, uh,' then the word 'deal' may not be taught in places that use Cantonese. The word 'deal' literally sounds like the F word in Cantonese! No reasonable Cantonese-speaking person would condemn an English-speaking [person] using the word 'deal' if the speaker is using it in its true meaning. If USC has other motives in firing this professor, they should be clear about it! SHAME ON YOU, USC, AND ALL THOSE STUDENTS WHO CONDEMN THIS PROFESSOR!"
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