Murray State Univ. professor resigns after comparing black student to slave

By David Edwards
Friday, February 18, 2011 13:33 EDT
google plus icon
  • Print Friendly and PDF
  • Email this page

A political science professor at Murray State University has resigned after telling an African American student that she didn’t show up early to class because slaves were always late.

Freshman Arlene Johnson told the Murray Ledger & Times that professor Mark Wattier had already begun the screening of a film before she showed up on time to an August class.

After the class, Wattier explained to Johnson and another student that he always started film screenings 10-15 minutes early.

“We said, ‘Well, we didn’t know that. It wasn’t on the syllabus, so we were unaware,’” Johnson recalled. “And then he said, ‘Well, it’s OK, I expect it of you guys anyway.’ We asked him, ‘What did that mean?’ And he said the slaves never showed up on time, so their owners often lashed them for it. He just didn’t have the right.”

Johnson went to the school’s Office of Equal Opportunity and lodged a complaint. Wattier was later suspended without pay or benefits.

After initially appealing the suspension, Wattier decided to resign, according to the West Kentucky Star.

Wattier also provided the paper with a doctor’s note that explained he had generalized anxiety disorder and depression.

But the professor had a slightly different memory of events that day.

“Wattier claims that he referred to a theory of slaves protesting their master’s treatment by being intentionally late,” the Star noted. “He recognizes that this was inappropriate, out of context, and blunt, and he regrets it, but adds that racial slurs have never been part of his vocabulary.”

Wattier also said that he appealed the suspension so that he could apologize to his students.

“I want him to apologize to me, to my face,” Johnson told The Grio. “I deserve that.”

This video is from The Grio, uploaded Feb. 16, 2011.

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
By commenting, you agree to our terms of service
and to abide by our commenting policy.
  • Anonymous

    Another asshole, undoubtedly a Republican/TeaPartier.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rambotheshark Robin Cooper

    They are the Murray State Racers.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Bet this is a professor that David Horowitz considers one of the good ones.

  • Guest

    This is what happens in non-union “right to work” states.

    Standards are not required, but it allows fast-track tenure status to Neanderthals.

    The cost savings are impressive.

  • http://twitter.com/cburrell3 Charles Burrell

    Oh yes, now that we have a black president in the White House, the vestigial stains of racism have naught but disappeared.

  • Jaimie11

    His suspension by the school was the right action. That is how this sort of thoughtless, deliberately hurtful behavior is dealt with. Let’s hope his decision to resign was brought about as a result of his reflection and good urgings of his conscience.

    I hope this young woman will receive the apology she wants and deserves, and will take him to court where he will should be made to pay a sum of money to fund any help she needs in healing the injury he inflicted on her psyche.

  • Anonymous

    “…And he said the slaves never showed up on time, so their owners often lashed them for it. He just didn’t have the right.”

    Here comes Ron and Rand Paul on their horses to make sure the owners have the right.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QMPOO3PZFN7XV2XZKCGSXXR3WM Joe Somebody

    The ignorant are becoming unglued. I guess they thought they were going to quietly maintain their monopoly on power, and the black man running the country burst their bubble.. Hell, they put Rand Paul in the Senate hoping he could undo the Civil Rights Act so people like this teacher could abuse whomever he wanted and the only recourse for “citizens” would be to, what.. find another school?

    There’s a good reason it’s illegal to discriminate. If you don’t like it, move to some other country. Us sane people demand you knuckle draggers act with some civility if you want to live in a free country. It being illegal to discriminate doesn’t bother anyone that isn’t a bigot; only bigots are pissy that they have to treat everyone like a human being and respect their rights.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TX3MXXPF52BXCKGNLDNPADILPQ paul rogers

    Of course it is safe to make that assumption because a progressive would never do anything like that:


  • parrots_abound

    “Slaves are always late” ?????

    On so many levels I am trying to wrap my head around that statement.

  • AstroCat

    What an evil thing to say to kids. They already have it tough for being potential African American college grads in a screwed up economy. I’m sure racists constantly think these things in their everyday lives, but what made him say it out loud? Did he want to get fired?

  • Praxman

    Not seeing the equivalence between your link and this story…?
    Maybe you could dumb it down for us?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Lee-Brown/1522418996 Thomas Lee Brown

    You have any clue how racist that comment is?

    Individuals of color can act despicably. Individual white folks can act despicably. As groups, however, both are usually decent law-abiding citizens. The ones who aren’t should be punished exactly the same.

    Both should be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the contents of their character.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Lee-Brown/1522418996 Thomas Lee Brown

    I love and admire President Obama, and was dumb enough to briefly entertain the idea that your statement could be true. For a couple of days, at least.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UJ4XRIA3A3E6MYGK755EGWLN4Q Dani A

    on one hand, i can kinda understand what he might have been trying to say… and it might have been interesting and self defacing.. but some how i doubt that is how he meant it.

  • Mr. Neutron

    Wait, Professor Mark Wattier is an old white guy that wears a cowboy hat ?

    Now that’s a surprise. Never would have guessed it from a guy with that kind of heritage…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JETED5IFXLBHDCPATGS3JUS5HU Dip Stick

    What this professor did was inexcusable, racism is never acceptable. Not defending it, but it does seem like an expression of lashing out at a general level of student rudeness and inattention. I’m going for some college classes right now and there does seem to be a higher level of student rudeness than when I first when to college 18 years ago. Just saying that her not being early, if it was in the syllabus, is worthy of having some kind of punitive action, just not the racist kind.

  • Anonymous

    Even if it was a broad generalization, don’t be a tea party apologist.

  • Anonymous

    His comment on slaves being late is so BS that it’s not even funny even to a intelligent bigot. First of all it would take one time and all the slaves wouldn’t be late, for the simple fact that this slave owner terrorized them day in and day out with death and mutiliation (all this idiot Professor had to do is look at history). Also I agree 100% with what you said Joe, they are coming unglued. They are seeing their power monopoly go away like the dodo and they are running scared. The bigots and the closet bigots are ticked that they can’t treat people like crap and then with a smug dare you to do anything. They don’t like the idea that they have to treat people different than them with respect, they don’t like they have to be in the same place or give a person the same service as them. They hate it because they are bigoted and spiteful.

    They don’t want to be civil to people who are different because they believe those people are animals. And for this professor to act as if he had medical problems first and then try to say it was a academic discussions shows how the last refuge of a scoundrel in this case is his attempt and using health issues and/or academic freedom to say he didn’t do anything wrong.

  • Anonymous

    That’s an inappropriate stereotype. Think about what you’re saying.

  • Anonymous

    How do people like him manage to get advanced degrees?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I6TZMDHMA6VGPQRWKAURMPHKEU dwayne

    I don’t know if the man is a bigot but he could have handled the situation more tactfully. Using a slave reference to describe tardiness by a black student is just ignorant. He also should apologize to her directly. This is inexcusable conduct.

  • Anonymous

    This guy has since moved to a undisclosed location. You can’t run from justice buddy.

  • Anonymous

    They hide it, racists and bigots are master deceivers.

  • Anonymous

    You assume a black male will go physical since he doesn’t have enough sense to handle things without violence. Boy I tell Americas Achilles heal is race, always will be.

  • Ignatzfattis

    …racial slurs have never been part of his vocabulary.Only a racist thinks that simply not using racial slurs makes them not a racist.

  • Anonymous

    Very F’d up. Hope he doesn’t own or try to buy firearms, being that he admits to having mental problems. Blame it on the mental problems…
    Perhaps he’s mirroring the TeaBagging Propaganda out there. It’s “intelligently” designed for people with Mental Problems.
    Good thing she spoke up. Wonder what meds he’s on?
    She seems so sweet. What an asshole.

  • Guest

    Another problem brought to you by our WONDERFUL healthcare system.

    If this man truly had a pre-existing condition and was treated for it, he’d probably still have his job and those poor students wouldn’t think that there goes another stupid cracker!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MSVG73USMG342DWORQKIEJ6HVQ Bob

    Ewwww – generalized anxiety disorder! Is that a generalized excuse for being a major dickweed? The most wonderful thing about our American society is how no one ever takes responsibility for anything. We are a community of irresponsible jerks.

  • Lincoln Paradox

    My guess is that the reason the professor left was to prepare for a lawsuit against the university. University policy requires investigation, warning and the potential to rectify. By immediately suspending the professor, instead of trying to arbitrate, the University opened themselves up to a HUGE lawsuit.

    This guy said something stupid. The student’s feelings were obviously hurt. University regulations are designed to protect both parties.

  • Jaimie11

    The point is that Alternet, self professed promoter of civil rights and social justice apparently believes using racist language to describe a black conservative, demeaning him and using his race to ridicule him, is respecting his civil rights and extending social justice to him.

    Why is that not regarded as racist when the Left does it? If the Right were to do the same, there would be hell to pay.

    I thought MLK wanted to see a day when a man would be judged by the content of his character not by the color of his skin. To tell a black man that he must think like you before you will accept him as a man, is racist no matter who does it.

  • Jaimie11

    The point is that Alternet, self professed promoter of civil rights and social justice apparently believes using racist language to describe a black conservative, demeaning him and using his race to ridicule him, is respecting his civil rights and extending social justice to him.

    Why is that not regarded as racist when the Left does it? If the Right were to do the same, there would be hell to pay.

    I thought MLK wanted to see a day when a man would be judged by the content of his character not by the color of his skin. To tell a black man that he must think like you before you will accept him as a man, is racist no matter who does it.

  • Jaimie11

    So you’re saying the school’s suspending him was a knee-jerk reaction? And he could come through this with a big settlement? There’s something very wrong with that.

  • Jaimie11

    That’s just libelous.

  • Anonymous

    I thought everyone was having a knee-jerk reaction until I googled his picture. 95% chance you’re right.

  • Mr. Neutron

    Good luck trying to apply libel law to anonymous blog comments.

    They can’t even enforce it with bylined opinion pieces on “news” sites like foxnews.com

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KLEJGG2LQNWI5ZTFAGJLCQCFMY Baldrz

    You can’t expect students to show up early for class, especially on a regular basis, unless the school allows enough extra time between classes. What are they supposed to do if they have another class immediately beforehand: leave early and piss off another professor? When I was in college there was just enough time between classes to walk from one building to another and maybe use the bathroom. If your classes were on opposite sides of campus, you had to rush or you’d be late. I doubt it’s changed much since then.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/XZOZFUWR3YKJ25ZUAQQZWO7R6I SR

    Such a knee jerk response.

    You see something you dont like and automatically it must be a republican/tea partier/sarah palin.

    Kinda reminds me of a baby that kicks his leg and keeps kicking it because he thinks its moving the curtain at the other end of his room. And thats giving you a lot of credit for what is otherwise a very loose association. An infantile mind still has a chance to develop. ….whereas the mind of a schizo is lost to the world.

  • Anonymous

    Republicans and Tea Partiers are EXACTLY the kind of people who think this way. Moreover, this is precisely the mentality of their base and it is ignorant, insensitive bigots like this to which they pander to draw support. You’re swimming against the tide if you’re trying to convince anyone otherwise. Wattier is the essence of what that crowd stands for.

  • Anonymous

    BTW -

    1) I’m no schizo. If I were, I wouldn’t be working where I’m working,

    2) Do you know where the apostrophe key is on your keyboard?

  • Jaimie11

    I thought the left prides itself on its superior respect for human rights and social justice. But they don’t evidence such qualities. They are more than willing to spread libelous untruths in complete contradiction to their purported ideals. And they apparently want government to reflect their sentiments and fulfill their wishes it should be a government for them, by them, the people. That is a frightening notion, that the government should continue to be empowered to be as inhuman, as petty and cruel, as disrespectful of individuals and the law as it is now, but with closer alignment to the lawless values of the left.

    What a load, Neutron, to use the bad behavior of someone else to rationalize your own bad behavior. Your mother must have told you two wrongs don’t make a right. If she neglected to, I am telling you that now.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2BL2BMGKRQFI5RE66OP2H2ROLU James a Polk

    All right. I’ll judge this man for the content of his character. The difference, really, is this: Cain, like Michael Steele and Allen West and others–and I’ll extend it to the Log Cabin Republicans–stand before the Republican SS, makes a speech while hoping to be accepted into the higher ranks of the club. But none of them ever will be accepted, really, because there’s a rather large element within who ARE the higher ranks and who, while the Cains, etc. speak, are mumbling the “n” word (never to his face, mind you) and other derogatory terms to describe him. AND HE KNOWS IT (so does Steele and West–and even the Log Cabin Republicans know they are being called “fags” under the breaths of the white “straight” guys who run the show), but Cain goes on speaking and perpetuating their propaganda–and the corporate agenda–while enduring that undercurrent (sometimes overt) of racism so that HE can get ahead–because, after all, if he were to get in a real position of power, become self-less and start to help other African Amercians (as a whole), man, those white guys would come down on him SO hard…. He MUST know this. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t racism within the Democratic party, but I DO wonder how a Dennis Kucinich or a Russ Feingold or an Allen Grayson would think of a black man versus Haley Barbour or Dick Armey or Rush Limbaugh (don’t doubt that he’s a Republican elite who dictates policy), etc.

  • cannotvote

    From an intellectual pov it might be considered a relevant point for discussion. If though malice was the intent then something else is at play.
    Another PC option exploited perhaps by a knee jerk response – being British I get redcoat and all manner of snide racist comments living here in the US – I just lash back in my way, unperturbed, which of course is easy as most septics can’t argue a fart in a toilet – but then I’m white, so what you say?
    Nationality is a matter of cultural education, not just holding a passport – you speak and gesticulate like a Frenchman, chances are thats what you are, whatever you skin colour – ducks, walk and talk like ducks, a shovel is different from a spade! In other words move on and stop with all this inadequacy shit – educational establishments should be safe from reverse racism – people need to talk freely, or surely something has gone astray?! Get over yourselves, this is the 21st century.

  • Jaimie11

    Prejudice against blacks, gays, women, muslims, children…look, the list is endless…is not limited to particular parties. It exists everywhere and should be called out wherever it exists.

    The errors some Republicans make in supporting the Neoconlib agenda, are also made by Democrats – there is only one party, the War Party. But to use a man’s race or his religion, his sexual identity as a club to beat him with because you don’t like his politics, is a violation of his human rights to think for himself, to follow his own conscience, and to seek happiness in the way he chooses. Mr. Cain does not violate your human rights by thinking for himself – yet you condone violating his for thinking for himself differently from what you think yourself and approve.

    That is hypocrisy. Doesn’t fly for me.

  • Lincoln Paradox

    In bureaucratic terms, the suspension came too quickly and outside of proper policy. When a university breaks the rules, it is left up to a judge to determine if the university broke its promises to the prof as an employee.

    Like I said, university policies are designed to protect everyone.

  • Jaimie11

    I wonder if there is a devious purpose to their having suspended him too quickly. Or if it was it an authentic error.

    I hope all this does not mean that this young woman or anyone else will be subjected to more insulting behavior.

  • alfredo

    I guess paul rogers will have to do that! I know it will be a challenge but I think he is up to it.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/XZOZFUWR3YKJ25ZUAQQZWO7R6I SR

    If I replace what you say about “Republicans” with the words “black people”, I’d be obligated to call you out as a bigot.

    All this means is you never really grew up. You merely shifted the object of your intolerance and hatred.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/XZOZFUWR3YKJ25ZUAQQZWO7R6I SR

    Well, now, thats a strong argument.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but sometimes what appears to be just a stereotype is true. Examine the record of their stances, their public pronouncements, and their behavior (especially at rallies). REplacing “Republicans” with “black people” is a false argument. As is your assertion that I never grew up.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/XZOZFUWR3YKJ25ZUAQQZWO7R6I SR

    Again, your line of thinking is consistant with that of racial bigotry. You’ve simply swapped out labels to make your hatred and intolerance more palatable.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry guy, I live in a majority black city run by black conservatives. You can ridicule a conservative no matter what color his skin is.

    And people that specifically follow blacks in politics wont listen to you defend Steele because you first have to resolve the fact that his first critics where Republican. As a black Democrat I’ve always said I don’t know why Steele gets so much heat from his own party when he fails just as much as any of them.

  • Anonymous

    More like a leftist/socialist.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_V6EGOM5STOVTJHIEDCJ3P5GKRI AlJ

    No, it just means you know how to hide your schizophrenia.

  • MikeR

    “kerry was sure to lose the election and a very sad, angry dr. wattier took it out on all his psuedo- classes.”
    Who assumed he was a Tea Partier?

  • Jaimie11

    “You can ridicule a conservative no matter what color his skin is.”

    I wholeheartedly agree, you can criticize anyone’s political ideas and actions no matter what his appearance is. And in fact if you refrained from criticizing them because of his skin color that is racist too. But when critics of his ideas use his appearance, his skin color, as a vehicle for expressing their disdain and condescension of those ideas, and also claim to be all for human rights and social justice, they have betrayed their own ideals and fallen to the level of what they profess to hate. The premise upon which left condescension of black conservatives is based is that all blacks must be of one particular political persuasion to be acting in their own self-interest, or that their genetics naturally predispose them to be Democrats. That is as racist a notion as I’ve ever encountered.

    As for Steele, his first critics were Republican because they thought he was doing a poor job, not because he is black. Keep making all issues racial that involve PEOPLE of all races and racism and division are perpetuated. Well, I think the left has far more interest in perpetuating racism than does the right. It has proven a useful tool used in the divide and conquer methods that factionalize the American electorate and stir up anti-racist passions when the Dems need votes. Not noticing how racism, and so many other issues, is used for its divisive effects, or noticing and not caring, seems a form laziness.

    Why Dems are as blind to their own hypocrisy as the right is, shows the vacuousness of both sides. Neither side has a leg to stand on when complaining about the hypocrisy of the other. Why can’t you see that? Why can’t you see it’s pointless to maintain such a position and expect real change at the same time?

  • Anonymous

    clearly another racist left wing Demoncrat