A University of Kansas assistant professor placed on leave after she used a racial slur in class said on Saturday that an investigation by the school found she had conformed with the policy against discrimination.
The controversy stemmed from a graduate communication class Andrea Quenette, who is white, taught in November, when she said that she did not see the racially charged “N-word” in graffiti on campus, while it had been spray painted on a wall at another school.
Students complained, saying she had given offense in the discussion about racial issues at the University of Kansas. Defenders of academic freedom backed the professor’s contention that she had a valid reason to use the word.
“It’s been really difficult,” Quenette said in a phone interview. “I can’t really explain how it feels to have your entire career in jeopardy over one moment in time.”
Quenette said university officials notified her of their finding in a letter on Friday and she expected to return to teaching in the summer or fall.
Joe Monaco, a spokesman for the University of Kansas, said in an email that the school had found Quenette did not violate policies against discrimination and racial harassment.
Quenette said the students in her class had asked to begin a discussion on race, in response to a campus town hall the night before moderated by the chancellor to deal with questions of race and diversity.
Following complaints from students over her use of the racial slur, Quenette was placed on paid leave that month, she said.
Jyleesa Hampton, an African-American student who was not in the class but who joined her fellow graduate students in an open letter critical of the professor, said in a phone interview she does not believe Quenette should have pronounced the “N-word.”
“That word has a lot of baggage, especially coming from people who are not from the population it was designed to segregate, which is white people,” Hampton said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles,; editing by Ian Simpson and Bernard Orr)