It’s got to be a little concerning how frequently the stories of professors freely using hateful slurs in the classroom seem to take place at Emory School of Law. Of course, it happens at other law schools too, with some profs refusing to apologize, some claiming the academic freedom to use the offensive term, others going bold with reverse discrimination claims, one resigning over the incident, and at least one professor had a change of heart after using a slur in the classroom. But, damn, it sure happens a lot at Emory.
And we have another incident at the Atlanta school — but with a twist. See, those other cases revolve around the use of the N-word. Polite society, such as it is, has more or less settled on the standard of the term being verboten for non-African American speakers to use. The most recent `case was Professor Sasha Volokh (yes, brother of Eugene Volokh, a law professor who is comfortable dropping the N-word, even when specifically asked not to and wrote a diatribe defending the practice) that mentioned the F-word that’s a slur for homosexuality in class.
As described by insiders at the law school, Volokh, who is also the Fed Soc advisor at Emory because OF COURSE, “casually” called Westboro Baptists “those guys who call gay people f*****.”
As another tipster shared with Above the Law:
Emory Law Professor Volokh used a slur describing homosexuality in class this week. The faculty seems to be diversifying beyond the N-word.
Matt Damon can tell you, that word is a hurtful slur despite it being more common in Gen X’s childhood memories and GLAAD characterizes it as “defamatory language.” And whether it is the N-word or the F slur or any other historically hurtful term, the questions remains… why? Why is this necessary? It feels entirely gratuitous, a parading around of “academic freedom” with little regard for the collateral damage.
ATL tipsters report they haven’t received official word from the law school about the incident, with several noting the difference in how the latest N-word utterance at the school earlier this semester was handled. When Above the Law reached out to the law school, a representative provided the following statement:
An Emory Law professor used a derogatory term for LGBTQ+ people on September 2 during a classroom discussion of a case about Westboro Baptist Church that involved that same term and explored the doctrine of intentional infliction of emotional distress and First Amendment protections for free speech.
Emory protects academic freedom and free expression, whether in research or in the classroom. We also recognize that faculty members who make important decisions about class content should have access to training to ensure that those pedagogical choices are informed by research into the learning needs of a diverse student body.
Today, the Emory Law faculty voted to require annual mandatory Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programming for all faculty members that will begin this year. This is an important step, and we recognize the need for continued dialogue and action to support student learning. We will continue to consult with students through the law school’s DEI Committee and student organizations on these and other important matters.
Which is all well and good. But, this shouldn’t be difficult. All slurs are bad and the law school should communicate that to their students and faculty. Can’t we just be grown-ups and agree not to say anymore slurs, especially not in a classroom setting? Is that too much to ask? It is, isn’t it…. Well, we can hope.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).