Stanford Daily, Professor’s Use of Racial Slur in Lecture Sparks Backlash at Law School:
History professor Robert Proctor drew backlash after repeatedly saying the N-word — when quoting from advertisements — in a guest lecture for Stanford Law School (SLS) professor John Donohue’s torts law class shortly before Thanksgiving Break.
Proctor “should understand the harm caused by using the N-word and how the word is used to oppress and marginalize,” stated a letter to members of the law school community from groups including the Black Law Students Association (BLSA). “Professor Proctor’s use of the N-word did not have pedagogical value — repeating this word was not germane to the subject of the presentation (the tort liability of the tobacco industry).”
The letter said that 44 of 60 students present during the class signed a letter expressing “shock and disappointment” to SLS Associate Dean of Student Affairs Jory Steele. ...
In an email to students in the class, [Donohue] apologized "for any hurt caused by Dr. Proctor's reference to the racist history" of tobacco industry advertising. ... Another faculty member said that "criticisms of comments similar in nature to those made by Dr. Proctor give enormous fuel to the Fox News crowd that helped elect Donald Trump," Donohue wrote. ...
Proctor told The Daily that in his lecture, he aimed to demonstrate the "racialist marketing" used by the tobacco industry. His slides — one of which was labeled "Racist brands" — included images of the N-word's use in brand names, according to slides provided to The Daily. ...
SLS Dean Jenny Martinez apologized for the incident in a letter to the SLS community.
“The law school is committed to creating an inclusive environment where all students can thrive,” Martinez wrote. “As a school, we still have a lot of work to do.”
While noting that primary sources may include racist content, Martinez wrote that speaking racial epithets aloud “rarely adds substantive content to the class even when the purpose is to condemn the epithet.”
“Context matters, but knowing that such hateful words are likely to have a disproportionate effect on certain students in the class,” Martinez added, “it is rare that there is an incremental educational value in speaking them out loud that outweighs the distress it causes.”