Monday, November 23, 2015

Use and Reference Squared

Mark Tushnet

The summary of a story in today's Chronicle of Higher Education reads, "Kansas professor is on leave after students complain over her use of n-word and her statements on retention. Situation is latest to raise issues of racial sensitivity and academic freedom." When you read the story itself, it turns out that the professor didn't "use" the word in the technical sense, but "referred" to it. (My providing a link to the story is the "squared" version of reference.) There's more to the controversy than the reference to the n-word. But, at least as reported, I would think that the professor's in-class actions were well within the boundaries of academic freedom and discourse, though perhaps there was some inartful phrasing (as can occur when one doesn't simply read prepared notes).

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