A University of Kansas professor who used a racial slur in class will be able to keep her job. After a four-month investigation, assistant communications studies professor Andrea Quenette was found not to have violated the school’s nondiscrimination policy, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
The call for her termination arose in November, after a race and discrimination seminar on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, where a graduate student asked how they should talk about the issue with their students. Quenette remarked that she was unqualified to talk about the topic because she was a white person. But added, “It’s not like I see ‘N-----’ spray-painted on walls.” Her remark sparked a lengthy open letter posted on Medium by 11 students enrolled in her public speaking class.
In the open letter, the students collectively called for her termination based on legal grounds. “The goal of the course is to produce practitioners, so by imbuing racist language, remarks, and viewpoints into the pedagogy her students were meant to replicate, Dr. Quenette was training us to perpetrate acts and ideas violating the policies of the university,” the students wrote in the open letter. “Therefore, her speech is not protected by the First Amendment and employer discipline for her remarks is not only legal, but necessary based on her breach of contract.”
Quenette was placed on paid leave during the investigation. While she was cleared of any misconduct, her return does come with a few conditions. She will be paired with another faculty member and will receive cultural competency training, and orientation curriculum will be re-evaluated to support diversity more fully.
“I believe they did due diligence in taking the students’ concerns seriously, and I do appreciate that,” Quenette told the Lawrence Journal-World. “I didn’t believe I had violated policies ... so I’m glad that the outcome reflected that.”