By: KDKA-TV News Staff
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Duquesne University says a professor has been placed on paid leave after a video posted to social media showed him using a racial slur during an online class.
Professor Gary Shank was heard using the n-word three times and telling students they had permission to use it. Shank said he was only doing so “to demonstrate a point.”
In a statement, Duquesne says effective Friday, “that faculty member in the video is on paid leave, pending investigation.”
“He is not teaching. As this is a personnel matter, further specifics cannot be discussed, but another professor is taking over the course,” Duquesne said in a statement.
School of Education Dean Gretchen Generett sent the following letter to students about the incident:
“I am writing this afternoon to let you know that I am aware of what transpired in your class yesterday and to offer my sincere apologies to you for what you experienced. I learned about this incident from students who emailed their advisor. I am also aware that a student emailed the professor directly. I understand that sending those emails was not easy and I want to thank students for using their voices to share the troubling and disturbing language that was used by your professor in class.
“To be clear, I believe that there is never a time, pedagogically or otherwise, for a professor to create a hostile learning environment. I know this from my experience as a student, a professor, and now as Interim Dean of the School of Education. Using the ‘N word’ or seemingly encouraging students to use that word is not in keeping with the mission of the University, the School of Education, or the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
“As a professor in the Leading Teaching Program here in the School of Education, I often speak about teachable moments. This is one of them. As an educator, you should always be mindful of the impact of your actions on the students you are obligated by the profession to teach. Your intentions are of no consequence when a student’s learning is disrupted by what you believe to be okay. Your actions are what students will remember.
“Please know that this matter is being taken very seriously by School of Education leadership, and please feel free to reach out to us if you have any ongoing questions or concerns.”
Duquesne University takes very seriously our work in creating an inclusive environment.”