A teacher at Columbia University has talked his way into a boiling pot.
Jonathan Rieder reportedly employed a racial slur during a lecture.
Hence, he’s been hit with a Title IX complaint.
To be clear, it wasn’t just any offensive foul-up — he articulated the current queen mother of dirty words.
Culture’s moved a ways past 1983’s cinematic supremacy, A Christmas Story:
It’s the N-word at issue at Columbia, and Jonathan may have fudged his career.
Speaking of culture, the instructor’s course is called “Culture in America.”
And speaking of cinema, he was quoting a film.
So reports the Columbia Spectator.
As is par for our contemporary course, the outlet refused to print the word.
And though it offers only a coded rendition of the two-syllable lightning-snagger, the article begins thusly:
Content Warning: This story contains the mention and use of racial slurs and discusses topics of racism.
Evidently, Jonathan left select students triggered.
The incident occurred during an October 28th Zoom meeting.
The movie referenced: 2002’s 8 Mile.
Jonathan claims he was illustrating intersectionality and identity, but it’s uncertain whether that’ll let him off the hook.
Per the Spectator, the man was already known as a pot-stirrer.
A student named Anabelle explains:
“This is my first class with him, but when I had mentioned that I was taking this class, a bunch of people were like, ‘Oh, watch out,’ because it’s kind of well-known that he does things like this and intentionally tries to make students uncomfortable.”
Before a small crew registered the official complaint, they addressed their grievance directly:
Students who voiced concerns about Rieder’s use of the slur were invited to stay after class for continued discussion. During this discussion, Rieder also allegedly used “bitch” and a homophobic slur as “examples of marginalized people possibly reclaiming words,” according to Anabelle.
The professor asserted he had an alibi: the letter “A.”
His student Sarah recalls:
Rieder allegedly also argued that ending the N-word with an “A” was more appropriate than ending with a hard “R,” and that he “hasn’t said the N-word with a hard ‘R’ in nearly two years.”
Maybe he should’ve left out that last part.
A day later, he reiterated his defense:
In an apology email sent to students on Oct. 29, Rieder wrote that he found the distinction between the two endings of the word to “sociolinguistically…function as a different word.”
Via the mea culpa, he took responsibility for that all-too-common scourge: “harm.”
“It’s fair to say that I didn’t need to quote the word. I regret any pain or offense caused by my quoting, whether one student or the whole class felt pain or offense. You should know that in the remaining weeks of the course, no material will call for saying the word.”
But Julia — a member of the disgruntled group — is unimpressed:
“His apology definitely had a tone of ‘I’m sorry that you guys reacted in this way,’ without him actually taking accountability and feeling genuinely sorry about what he did.”
To make matters worse, Jonathan’s skin’s of the sallow sort.
And these days, some adolescents find an imbalance of power indefensible:
Some students also expressed frustration with Rieder’s casual use of the slur given his identity as a white man, as well as the power imbalance that exists between students and instructors in the classroom.
Sarah gave him a bit of what for:
“That word will never be used against you in a dangerous and negative way, and you don’t have authority to be able to choose whether or not you can say it.”
Her teacher tried to deny people’s lived experience:
“[He] mentioned how we are in a liberal bubble, being at this school. And this is what he’s concerned about at liberal arts colleges, how we’re becoming too sensitive, and we’re sanitizing too much of our learning.”
Apparently, Jonathan has a decidedly different idea — one involving open discourse.
In a statement to the Spectator, he waxed on such:
“I believe that [Columbia and sister school Barnard College] need to do more to impart the values of freedom of expression and the importance of liberal arts ideals. Making students feel comfortable should not be the priority of our teaching.”
More on his moratorium:
“I have never used or employed racial slurs as my own. As to dealing with course material that may contain slurs, two years ago I made a practical decision to temporarily embargo quoting the N-word in any form, while figuring out how to balance the objections of some students and my own pedagogical and sociological beliefs.”
We’re living in strange times.
Should any and every word be allowed to emanate from a professor’s punim?
Personally, I don’t believe so. There are surely words no teacher needs to say; it’s easy to consider the N-word among them.
Still, despite our cultural craze against context, the concept is still rightly king.
University Orders Adherence to Preferred Pronouns and Made-Up Monikers, Threatens 'Action' Regardless of 'Intent' https://t.co/OEQ5DWGoWq
— RedState (@RedState) September 22, 2021
So far as I know, no one’s upset about the word being used in 8 Mile — a complete work of fiction.
In referencing it, Jonathan crossed the reality line: He spoke of something actual, that being the movie’s dialogue.
Hence, it was okay for screenwriters and actors to employ the term when referencing nothingness. But when a man called to the fact that that had been done, he found himself in trouble.
He acknowledged what exists, rather than causing it to exist through imaginative means.
But only referencing reality caused controversy.
Regardless, these days, college students don’t appear built for hearing words.
They’re more so made for recovering from them.
'Harmful Content': National Archives Slaps Warning on Constitution, Other Founding Documents https://t.co/Fzn6kuIcyf
— RedState (@RedState) September 9, 2021
Will Jonathan be fired?
[The] small group of students are filing a Title IX report against Rieder but fear that his tenured status will make recourse difficult.
Their fears may very well be founded.
But they’re compelled to try — so go the modern dictates of social justice.
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