You may recall the story of Andrea Quenette from November, 2015, an assistant professor at the University of Kansas, as previously reported by The Inquisitr. Quenette’s firing was called for by her students after she used the “n-word” in class.
Specifically, when grad student Abigail Kingsford asked her “In light of last night’s university-wide town hall meeting about race and discrimination on campus, what is the best approach to talk about that event and these issues with our students?” Quenette responded that “as a white woman” she had not ever “seen the racism” and followed with “it’s not like I see ‘n****r’ spray painted on walls…”
Quenette’s comments followed closely on a protest at the University of Kansas over a perceived lack of support for minority students and institutional tolerance for racism.
Her class was outraged and alleged in an open letter on Medium that she proceeded to make remarks that were “even more disparaging” and that “they articulated not only her lack of awareness of racial discrimination and violence on this campus and elsewhere but an active denial of institutional, structural, and individual racism.”
The students further claimed that she had a history of discriminatory behavior, quoted the school’s own policies, and ended the letter by stating that she “should be terminated.”
Quenette was placed on administrative leave and forbidden to set foot on school grounds while an investigation was conducted by the university’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access.
Now, according to a report by The Washington Post, that same office has exonerated Quenette, and they have notified her that she did not violate the school’s nondiscrimination policy or racial and ethnic harassment policies, and she will be keeping her job. Quenette felt that the results of the investigation were fair.
“I believe they did due diligence in taking the students’ concerns seriously, and I do appreciate that. I didn’t believe I had violated policies … so I’m glad that the outcome reflected that.”
“This word is offensive, but it was used in the context of retelling a factual event that occurred at another campus. It was not used in racial animus.”
University officials agreed — and as part of the decision, they offered her resources to improve her communication with students (in her communication studies class) before returning to work. These include cultural competency training, reevaluating orientation curriculum to include more diversity support, and partnering with a faculty mentor, all of which suggests that their conclusions were not quite so one-sided as they seem.
Quenette, to her credit, is open to the idea. “I think diversity training would be welcomed, and I think it is important for all faculty, so I embrace the opportunity to be able to do that. A faculty mentor, I think, is a great thing.”
Investigators also reviewed allegations that Quenette had failed to include diversity training in her curriculum, a program designed to teach grad students how to teach communications to other students, but the university also struck down those allegations, indicating that, once again, no violations had been committed.
Meanwhile, the students who signed the original letter are not satisfied. Gabrielle Byrd, a black student who was present that day, said that she wouldn’t even use the n-word herself, in any context.
“I was incredibly shocked that the word was spoken, regardless of the context. I turned to the classmate sitting next to me and asked if this was really happening. Before I left the classroom, I was in tears.”
Another black student, Jyleesa Hampton, said that just because the university had concluded that the comments didn’t violate policy, it didn’t mean that they weren’t racist.
“The students that wrote that letter stand behind that letter, that it is possible to do and say racist things and not violate the law. That doesn’t make them any more acceptable.”
A compelling argument, on the basis of who made the statements who were upset by them, and who did the investigating — most faculty at the University of Kansas is white.
Who do you think is right?
[AP Photo/Orlin Wagner]