• Education professor Gary Shank was placed on paid leave for saying the "N-word" several times
  • The Duquesne University educator was caught saying the term during a Zoom class 
  • Shank said he was using the word in a “pedagogical sense"
  • He then asked the students' permission if they could say the word

A University professor in Pennsylvania was placed on paid leave last week after a video of him using a racial slur during a Zoom lecture surfaced.

In an email sent to The Duquesne Duke, Gary Shank, an education professor at Duquesne University, was on paid leave effective Friday, September 11, after he was caught saying the “N-word” several times.

Duquesne vice president of marketing and communications confirmed the news, adding that Shank is not teaching and that he will be replaced by another professor to take over his Educational Psychology course, said the outlet.

Zoom meetings
Zoom usage for meetings and school instruction has surged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. AFP / Anthony WALLACE

The video, which was posted on Twitter by user @marcjr, showed Shank using the derogatory term and even “giving permission” for students to use the word considering that they are using it in a “pedagogical sense.” The educator continued to say that he was only using it to “demonstrate a point” and even gave examples of the term when he was younger, according to Fox News.

“What’s the one word about race that we’re not allowed to use? I’ll give you a hint. It starts with ‘N,” Shank said.

As he attempted to ask permission from his students if they could say the word, students were heard saying “No.” Shank then agreed, saying “Absolutely not.”

Moments after learning of the incident, School of Education dean Gretchen Generett wrote a letter to Shank’s students, The Duquesne Duke reported. Generett said she had learned about what had happened from students who emailed their advisor.

Generett commended the students for their courage to send the email and thanked them for “using their voices” to report “the troubling and disturbing language” Shank had used during his class.

“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.

“Your intentions are of no consequence when a student’s learning is disrupted by what you believe to be okay. Your actions are what students will remember,” wrote Generett.

As an apology, Shank wrote a letter to his class and admitted that the term he used was “deeply troubling.”

“It was not my intent to do so, but I must take responsibility for the impact of my words and teaching. As a consequence, I am offering each and every one of you my most sincere apology and my guarantee that I will never cross this line again in our class,” said The Duquesne Duke, citing a statement from Shank’s email.