Professor Who Uttered Racial Slur Three Times in Class To 'Demonstrate a Point' Fired

A Duquesne University professor has been fired after videos of him repeatedly using the N-word during an online class discussing went viral.

Professor Gary Shank has been on leave since September 11 while the Pennsylvania university investigated the racial slurs he used during a lesson two days prior.

As reported by the Tribune-Review, Shank, who is white, was recorded giving students permission to use the N-word because they would be doing so "in a pedagogical sense" during a lesson on educational psychology.

The professor then used the slur three times in front of the students, including mentioning how when he was younger he would refer to Brazil nuts as "[N-word] toes" and how "[N-word]-rich" was a term to describe a person spending money lavishly.

Shank made the remarks while showing a presentation slide titled "Race (from a cultural sense)."

No students used the N-word during the class, and Shank said he would only be using it "to demonstrate a point" on how the word was more commonly used, rather than expressing malice or hatred.

In a letter to students following Shank's dismissal, seen by Penn Live, Dean Gretchen Generett said: "To be clear, I believe that there is never a time, pedagogically or otherwise, for a professor to create a hostile learning environment.

"I know this from my experience as a student, a professor, and now as Interim Dean of the School of Education.

"Using the 'N word' or seemingly encouraging students to use that word is not in keeping with the mission of the University, the School of Education, or the Pennsylvania Department of Education."

Generett added: "I am also aware that a student emailed the professor directly. I understand that sending those emails was not easy and I want to thank students for using their voices to share the troubling and disturbing language that was used by your professor in class."

In a statement to the Newsweek, Gabriel Welsch, the university's vice president of marketing and communications, confirmed Shank was fird due to his "multiple use" of the racist slur:

"The University reached this decision mindful of academic freedom. Academic freedom rights, however, are not limitless, but call for a balancing with the University's written rules and policies," Welsch said.

"Moreover, one of the tenets of effective pedagogy is contextualization. Dr. Shank's repeated use of the N-word—as well as the examples he gave of the use of the slur—occurred outside of effective and appropriate pedagogical context, regardless of his intent.

"His persistence in the use of the N-word crossed into being disrespectful and creating a hostile learning environment."

Shank has until November 6 to appeal his termination. Shank's attorney Warner Mariani, said he plans to file a grievance against the university over the firing.

Duquesne University
Remote students are shown on screens as UNLV Department of Criminal Justice chairman and professor Dr. Joel Lieberman teaches Jury Decision Making, a criminal justice class at UNLV, amid the spread of the coronavirus on September 9 in Las Vegas. Ethan Miller/Getty