OU journalism professor steps back from teaching class after racial slur

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – An OU journalism professor who is in hot water for saying a racial slur during class is stepping back from teaching the class the rest of the semester. 

A student that was in the class tells KFOR it started as a discussion about using social media to show bias in students. She says Dr. Peter Gade compared the phrase ‘Ok, Boomer’ to the n-word.

“The one that ended with an R. Like old south n-word,” Sarah Beth Guevara told KFOR. “We were all shocked. We never expected that to come out of the mouth of a professor that we all respect, and frankly Gaylord deserves better than that.”

Guevara says one student called out Gade, telling him he shouldn’t use the word, while another just walked out of class.  

“On their way out, Dr. Gade said, ‘Never have I been so disrespected in my life.’ Which really had me taken aback because he’s never been so disrespected in his life?!” she said.

Guevara says Gade spent the rest of the class trying to get everyone back on track and even used free speech to justify what he said. She says Gade eventually apologized very briefly at the end of class.  

Gade has been a member of the faculty since 1998, and Guevara says no journalism student can graduate without taking his class.

University of Oklahoma Interim President Joseph Harroz released the following statement:

“Today a professor stated in his senior journalism class that there is an equivalence between the offensiveness of “OK, Boomer” and the use of the “N-word,” using the actual word itself. While the professor’s comments are protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom, his comment and word choice are fundamentally offensive and wrong. The use of the most offensive word, by a person in a position of authority, hurt and minimized those in the classroom and beyond. Our University must serve as an example to our society of both freedom of expression and understanding and tolerance. His words today failed to meet this standard. #WeAre speaks for our community; his words today do not.”

 UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA INTERIM PRESIDENT JOSEPH HARROZ
Data pix.

On Friday, university officials confirmed to KFOR that Dr. Gade will no longer be teaching the class the rest of the semester.

"It's been a challenging week at Gaylord College and OU, but also a week of learning and inspiration from our students. Our first priority is to ensure an exceptional educational experience for all of them.

In light of Tuesday's events, Peter Gade has agreed that he should step down from teaching the journalism capstone class for the rest of the spring semester. Associate Dean David Craig will oversee instruction for the class until semester's end. We are committed to ensuring students receive nothing but the best experience in the classroom.

Dr. Gade has also agreed that this episode is a chance to learn and grow. Thus, he will engage in OU's program in culturally competent communication over the next month. Further, he has agreed to meet one-on-one with OU's team in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in sessions over the coming semester.

This moment provides a point of reflection and opportunity for growth for the college as a whole. As dean, I have arranged for the faculty and staff at Gaylord College to undergo similar training under the guidance and recommendations of OU's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, headed by Vice President Belinda Hyppolite.

The training reflects our desire to learn and our commitment to the amazing students in Gaylord College," a letter from Dean Ed Kelley said.

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