Several students walked out of an anthropology lecture Tuesday afternoon when a professor allegedly asked a question in which he used the word “n****r,” according to several students in the class. Another student said he intends to drop the class due to the professor’s remarks.
Recordings of the incident were also provided to the ‘Prince.’
According to students, during lecture for the course ANT 212: Cultural Freedoms — Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography, anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen asked students, “What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a n****r?”
The lecture focused on the topic of oppressive symbolism.
“He was describing what is acceptable as free speech and what is not,” explained Devyn Holliday ’18 in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
According to students, Rosen allegedly said the word “n****r” twice more as part of discussions after his original question.
Rosen was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
“All the black students were looking at each other, as if asking whether he actually said that,” said Destiny Salter ’20. There were about six black students in the lecture, Holliday said.
According to Holliday, E Jeremijenko-Conley ’20, who identifies as white, responded to Rosen by saying, “I’m not comfortable with a white professor using the N-word.”
Holliday told the ‘Prince’ that Malachi Byrd ’19 allegedly asked Rosen, “So are you just going to keep using the N-word?”
According to Salter, Rosen allegedly responded, “Yes, if I think it’s necessary.”
After this, Byrd walked out of lecture. Later on, three more students also walked out, according to Jeremijenko-Conley.
Byrd did not respond to request for comment.
Byrd later returned to class and allegedly confronted Rosen using an expletive, according to an anonymous source.
According to Holliday, Rosen did not directly address the students’ concerns. Instead, he walked around the question, and defended his use of language. Rosen allegedly said, “It’s supposed to deliver a gut punch, so that’s why I used it.”
“Every single time he used the N-word, he used the word in its entirety,” said Salter. “He said ‘you need to suspend your disbelief for the sake of this class.’”
Byrd eventually re-entered the hall and asked if the professor would continue to use the word n****r in lecture. Students began to argue with Rosen, demanding he apologize. Holliday and Salter both said that the students argued with Rosen for the duration of lecture, because he would not give an apology.
According to Salter, Rosen allegedly said in the class, “I don’t think I need to apologize; I did not oppress anyone.”
Holliday expressed concern that before changing the topic of the lecture to pornograhic images, he said to students, “I’m going to give you the option of whether you’d like to see them.”
However, this option was not provided before Rosen said the N-word, according to Holliday.
Jeremijenko-Conley and Salter said that they filed a complaint with Justine Levine, director of studies for Rockefeller College.
Levine said in an email that she will work with the students to resolve the issue, according to Jeremijenko-Conley and Salter.
Kevin Ramos ’21 said he plans to drop the class in light of the incident.
“The professor saw how uncomfortable the students were with his language,” said Ramos. “If he doesn’t respect the students’ opinion, then it’s not worth learning from him.”
Rosen has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship as well as Guggenheim Fellowship for Social Sciences.