KEY POINTS

  • University of Oklahoma Professor Peter Gade reportedly made the comment during a journalism class while talking about how journalism has changed
  • Gade's comment received swift blowback from students and student groups demanding some sort of action be taken to address it
  • Gade later sent an email to the school's official newspaper apologizing for his comments

A University of Oklahoma professor faced blowback Wednesday for reportedly comparing the use of “OK, boomer” to calling someone the “N-word” during a journalism class.

Peter Gade, the director of graduate studies at the school’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, reportedly made the comment during a class Tuesday. He called on a student who said journalists have to keep up with younger generations instead of sticking to its “traditional” roots. Gade told the class the comments were similar to saying “OK, boomer.”

He followed up by saying “calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a n-----.”

Gade tried to defend using it before another student said he shouldn’t use that word, and Gade changed the subject.

The student was identified later as Molly Kruse, who works as the assistant culture editor for the schools official paper, OU Daily. The comments were reported by the paper and resulted in immediate backlash against Gade.

“I’m not sure that [type of language] does [have a place in the classroom],” Gaylord College Dean Ed Kelley told OU Daily. “Perhaps it did once upon a time. Perhaps he was using it as an educational tool. We have no record at all of Dr. Gade, a distinguished professor who's been on the faculty here for more than 20 years, of him ever using this term, much less any kind of other racially inflamed language.”

Kelley said he met with several students following Gade’s comments who told him they would not attend the class as long as Gade was still teaching it. Several students and student groups, including the Black Emergency Response Team, were also vocal on Twitter about Gade’s comments and demanded action be taken.

University of Oklahoma Interim President Joseph Harroz Jr. followed up with his own statement denouncing Gade’s comments, but did not talk about the professor's future at the school.

“While the professor’s comments are protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom, his comment and word choice are fundamentally offensive and wrong,” Harroz said. “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.”

Gade later emailed OU Daily after the report came out, apologizing for the comment.

“I realize the word was hurtful and infuses the racial divisions of our country, past and present,” Gade said. “Use of the word is inappropriate in any — especially educational — settings. I offer my deepest and most sincere apologies. In the coming weeks, I will strive to show you that I am an instructor and teacher who is trustworthy and respectful of all. Please give me that opportunity.”