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The Whig-Clio society held a debate on whether or not anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen was wrong to use the N-word during class. Whig argued for the resolution “[This House believes that] Professor Rosen should not have been able to use the N-word,” while Clio argued against it. Whig won the debate, with 34 votes to Clio’s 11. 

Morgan Smith ’21, who gave Whig's opening speech, explained that the debate raised awareness about the Rosen incident itself.

“I’m very happy that this happened because I want to see the momentum for this issue continue,” Smith said.

After the debate, Smith added, “to be very honest, I don’t think Clio gave anything that could’ve swayed me. Although any issue can be debated, and you can’t always find a resolution, a resolution was found here.”

“I think it’s always helpful to know the strongest arguments on the other side, even if it doesn’t change your mind,” said Theodore Furchtgott ’18, who gave Clio’s closing remarks. Furchtgott’s defense of Rosen centered on academic seriousness and whether or not it’s possible to have an open conversation about a word without saying the word itself in full. 

Over a hundred students and other community members attended the debate, demonstrating how much controversy and engagement this incident has generated on campus.

The Black Student Union originally planned to protest the debate, according to an email from Whig-Clio president Lena Hu '20. However, the protest was cancelled.

Shafaq Khan ’21, who has attended several Whig-Clio debates, said that while Clio was able to make a decent argument, she remained unconvinced that Rosen's use of the racial slur was justified. 

“If anything, before this debate I was less sure of my position,” said Khan. “Coming to this debate, seeing the turnout, especially from people of color, strengthened my belief that Professor Rosen should not have used the word.” 

Khan added that, like Rosen’s anthropology class, this debate was an educational experience, and noted that both sides were able to make their cases effectively without using the slur in full. 

“They got through this entire debate without using the N-word. Why didn’t they use the N-word? Because it’s not appropriate! I don’t think that the professor had to use the word in order to have some kind of educational experience. You can just say ‘the N-word,’” Khan said.

Ashley Hodges ’21 said that she found the debate very eye-opening. 

“You can be at the number-one university in the country and still have people arguing that you should be able to use the N-word,” said Hodges. 

Hodges added that, as a black student at a historically white institution, arguments defending the use of the N-word on campus made it easy to feel alienated. She further noted that the debate brought up broader issues about the way students of color experience community on campus. 

“In the debate, they talked a lot about ‘we,’ but I think they ignored that for many students of color, this campus-wide ‘we’ is simply non-existent,” she said.

“I don’t feel [like we're a] ‘we’ as a Princeton community,“ said Hodges. “I don’t feel that at all.”

The debate took place on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 9 p.m. in the Whig Senate Chamber of Whig Hall.

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