Students walk out after Princeton professor uses n-word in class

‘What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a n****r?’

Distinguished anthropology professor Lawrence Rosen angered students in his class on oppressive symbolism Tuesday after articulating a question with the n-word.

“What is worse, a white man punching a black man, or a white man calling a black man a n****r?” Rosen asked 39 students in his class titled "Cultural Freedoms: Hate Speech, Blasphemy, and Pornography."

The question immediately stoked anger among African American students in lecture. One student allegedly asked Rosen whether it is necessary to enunciate the word explicitly, to which the scholar responded affirmatively and proceeded to using the term again.

Rosen allegedly stated that he purposely did that because he wanted everyone to "feel the power of the N- word," according to Destiny Salter '21, another student in the course.

“A limit I would make is I wouldn’t want a white professor to say the n-word,” said Jeremijenko-Conley '21 during lecture.

A few students subsequently decided to walk out of the classroom in anger.

"Prof. Rosen started the class by telling us he was retired and felt his most empowered to say anything he desired. He had intentions on having a provocative class and about ten minutes into class unnecessarily dropped the n-word multiple times. After multiple requests from students to stop and departures from the class, he himself admitted that he didn't need to say it but wanted us to channel that passion because other people feel the same way about what's important to them," said Malachi Byrd '19, a student in the class who had walked out.

However, Byrd later returned to the class and alongside the rest of the class argued with the professor in a more heated tone, he said. Yet, Rosen continuously defended himself and then proceeded to insist that he was not oppressing anyone or engaging in oppressive behavior, Byrd said.

"I concluded my second leave from the class by telling him that he is wholesomely protected in this space, this university, and country so he does not have the ability to exploit people's marginalization unnecessarily," Byrd said. Byrd had proceeded to leave and drop the class.

The incident comes during Black History Month. One student who wished to remain anonymous stated that she believes it is "profoundly insensitive" for Rosen to use the word even after it created visible anger among students.

The university has received complaints about the class from students and is responding, according to Assistance Vice President for communications Daniel Day.

Princeton University