An Oklahoma University journalism professor triggered outrage on Tuesday by equating the N-word with the trendy put-down “OK, boomer.”
Peter Gade, the director of graduate studies at the university’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, made the comparison during a lecture Tuesday, according to the OU Daily student newspaper.
At one point, a student in the class reportedly raised his hand and said that journalists have an obligation to “keep up” with young generations. Gade responded that the student’s comment was the equivalent of saying “OK, boomer” to him.
The phase has lately entered the national vernacular as a way to dismiss the opinions of baby boomers and even members of Gen X as out of touch.
Students laughed at Gade’s quip before he went on to say: “Calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a [N-word].”
Some students immediately left the classroom following Gade’s remarks, the OU Daily reported. Others told the professor he should not use the racial slur while teaching.
Gade reportedly tried to defend himself before changing the subject.
An OU professor used a racial slur in class Tuesday, comparing it to the phrase "OK, boomer:" https://t.co/jwHZ8QBBqs
— OU Daily (@OUDaily) February 11, 2020
News of Gade’s gaffe quickly reached social media, where Oklahoma University students and other users condemned his argument and, in some cases, the use of the racial slur under any circumstances.
My fucking professor just had the NERVE to say OUTLOUD IN CLASS that calling someone a Boomer is like calling a black person A NIGGER…
— Janae (@naesoboojee) February 11, 2020
A number of students suggested that the university fire the longtime professor immediately.
Peter Gade gets canceled
Later Tuesday, Oklahoma University interim president Joseph Harroz Jr. issued a statement condemning Gade’s comments.
“While the professor’s comments are protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom, his comment and word choice are fundamentally offensive and wrong,” Harroz said. “The use of the most offensive word, by a person in a position of authority, hurt and minimized those in the classroom and beyond.”
The university’s chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists said in a statement that they were not surprised by the incident. The group said Gade had already been reported for a Title IX violation and that the university must punish him. It also called for classes on “social and cultural competency for all students” and increased “diversity” on campus.
Gade apologized to the students in a Tuesday evening email.
“I realize the word was hurtful and infuses the racial divisions of our country, past and present,” he said. “Use of the word is inappropriate in any — especially educational — settings. I offer my deepest and most sincere apologies. In the coming weeks, I will strive to show you that I am an instructor and teacher who is trustworthy and respectful of all. Please give me that opportunity.”
“We already feel like we’ve been through a month of trauma”
When Gade’s class reconvened Thursday, the professor was not present, the OU Daily reported. Students instead met with college officials and university administrators to talk about their feelings.
Higgs Hyppolite, the university’s chief diversity officer, said that both students and administrators were “really hurting” going into the discussion, according to the paper.
“There’s a lot of pain, a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, the whole gamut of emotions are happening,” she said. “I thanked them for being vulnerable about sharing how they feel because no student, no individual, should ever have to experience what they did in that classroom on Tuesday. This is an institution of higher learning and they expect more from us and we should give them more than this.”
Janae Reeves, a senior broadcast journalism student in the class, said she felt “heard” during the meeting.
“It’s been a rough few days, and we’re coming to the end of this week as a class and as a collective we already feel like we’ve been through a month of trauma,” she said.
Reeves added that she and many of her classmates did not feel it would be “fair” to make them return to class with Gade.
“This is critical for our future,” Reeves said. “I know that we’d love to return to the class and get an education, however we don’t want it to be with that professor. We do think that it’d be beneficial for him to take some time to learn, go through some trainings. But it wouldn’t be fair to us to have to go and sit there and face him again for the remainder of the semester.”