OKLAHOMA CITY – A University of Oklahoma professor came under fire Tuesday for allegedly using a racial slur in class.
Peter Gade, director of graduate studies and Gaylord Family Endowed chair, allegedly used the N-word while lecturing on technology-related changes and traditional reporting in journalism, according to the OU Daily, the student newspaper.
The newspaper said several staffers were in class when the slur was allegedly used.
Gade teaches journalism, as well as ethics and democracy. He called on a student who said journalists need to keep up with younger generations, according to a report by the OU Daily. Gade allegedly said the comment was akin to saying “OK, boomer” to him.
Some students laughed at the reference, which has become a favorite phrase among younger generations.
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However, according to the OU Daily, Gade next said that “Calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a (N-word).”
The newspaper said several students were in attendance. Gade reportedly told the class he was sorry if he offended anyone.
Calls to Gade, as well as Ed Kelley, dean of Gaylord College, were unreturned late Tuesday.
Kelley is quoted in the OU Daily as saying Gade is a “distinguished professor who's been on the faculty here for more than 20 years” and there is no record of him ever using the racial slur or any other kind of racially inflamed language.
Kelley told the student newspaper that college deans will meet with black students, conduct “fact-finding,” meet with Gade and pursue next steps.
“We're trying to work through this as best we know how, and I think the best process that we know has to be as open and aboveboard as we can be and, listening to students today is job one,” Kelley told the OU Daily.
Gade's words are protected by his right to free speech, Oklahoma Interim President Joe Harroz Jr. said in a statement.
"Today a professor stated in his senior journalism class that there is an equivalence between the offensiveness of 'OK, Boomer' and the use of the 'N-word, using the actual word itself," Harroz said. "While the professor’s comments are protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom, his comment and word choice are fundamentally offensive and wrong. The use of the most offensive word, by a person in a position of authority, hurt and minimized those in the classroom and beyond. Our university must serve as an example to our society of both freedom of expression and understanding and tolerance. His words today failed to meet this standard. #WeAre speaks for our community; his words today do not."
On Twitter, a student group calling itself the “OU Black Emergency Response Team” condemned use of the racial slur.
“We do not condone or accept this behavior from any member of the OU community regardless of occupation or student status,” the group said. “This will not be tolerated or accepted and we expect full action be taken against the professor and college.”
The group also called for “accommodation” to be made for “students who have experienced trauma” because of the alleged incident.