After Rosen's class canceled, students scramble to find replacement coursesand Ivy Truong | Feb 20, 2018
After anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen cancelled ANT 212: Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography following a controversy over his use of the word n****r, some students were left in need of a new class only days before the add/drop deadline.
Rosen drew media attention after saying the n-word in his class. He emailed his students on Feb. 12 about the cancellation a day before the scheduled second lecture. The class was supposed to meet once a week on Tuesdays.
“I have reluctantly decided to cancel this year’s offering of Anthropology 212, Cultural Freedoms,” wrote Rosen in an email obtained by the ‘Prince.’ “I think it [sic] only fair that you be free, before too much of the semester has passed, to move ahead in another course of your choosing.”
Some students have found the cancellation to cause “a bit of a hassle,” according to Destiny Salter ’20, who added that she is glad the class was canceled.
Salter told the ‘Prince’ she had a hard time finding another class, eventually choosing to take ENG 374: Fighting Words, or Cultures of Protest. Associate professor of English Zahid R. Chaudhary teaches the course.
“A lot of people have had the same experience,” she said, adding that a significant portion of students had dropped Rosen’s class before he cancelled it.
Emily Kunkel ’19 similarly had a hard time finding another course. As an anthropology major, she was taking the course to fulfill the 200-level departmental requirement and no other 200-level class fit her schedule. Now, she has to fulfill this requirement during her senior year.
“I'm taking a class for my certificate instead,” explained Kunkel, “but that just means I have to take four anthro classes as a senior, which is a lot.”
Anthropology concentrator Anna Pearson ’18 was also taking Cultural Freedoms to fulfill her last requirement. She was able to switch into another class, but noted that, in her opinion, the cancellation was hardest on seniors in the anthropology department.
“ANT 212 was cancelled well before the end of the add/drop period,” said Polly W. Griffin, University registrar. “The students in the class had access to their advisers to help, as needed, with the selection of another course.”
Georgia Hellard Timm ’20, however, enrolled in the class after the controversy. She heard about the class from a friend and chose to enroll, explaining that she wanted to enroll in a class that “deconstructed the meaning of hate speech.” She said she was disappointed when the course was cancelled.
“I saw it as a failure to engage with and logically retaliate against words that are so offensive,” Timm said.
Kunkel was also the student to whom Rosen had directed his question which used the n-word.
“To me the answer is so obvious, it's the latter. I think it was obvious for everyone in the class,” explained Kunkel. “Even so, I had to pause before answering because I was so taken aback that Rosen even used the word.”
Pearson also spoke on her reaction to the controversy.
“I wish he wouldn’t have said the word to begin with. I didn’t think it was appropriate or necessary,” said Pearson, reflecting on the class. “At an institution such as Princeton, with such a problematic history, there is no space for that.”
Salter echoed Pearson’s remarks, stressing that she hopes this situation won’t be treated as an isolated incident.
“It’s an example of a larger institutional issue where a lot of times students don’t feel comfortable recording their professors or even talking to them when they do something that really crosses a line,” Salter said.
Salter expressed dismay that there are no well-known protocols for students to report these incidents. After the lecture, she immediately called the Rockefeller College office and met with administrators.
Rosen has not responded to requests for comment.
The controversy has incited debate from both sides of the issue. Though many students felt that Rosen’s usage of the word was wrong, Department of Anthropology Chair Carolyn Rouse wrote a defending Rosen, stating that Rosen’s intentions in breaking taboos was to “get the students to recognize their emotional response to cultural symbols.”
At a meeting for the Council of the Princeton University Community, President Eisgruber expressed respect for Rosen’s “decision about how to teach the subject in the way that he did by being explicit and using very difficult words.”
In his email to the class, Rosen encouraged students to keep the dialogue going.
“This is a time to reach out to all those who came into the course, and beyond – to do what we do: to listen, to converse, to grapple with the categories by which we create our own experience,” he wrote.
According to the anthropology department , Rosen’s main interests are in culture theory, anthropology of law, ethnic relations, law and the American family, and American Indian legal problems. His main fieldwork has been in North Africa. Rosen has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship as well as Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences.