BY: Lauren Fruen – Daily amail
- The first year student – a woman who has not been named – had used the slur during Professor Vera Bergelson’s virtual office hours in October last year
- In discussing a case she had repeated a quote from a defendant which was used in an opinion written by former State Supreme Court judge, Alan B. Handler
- The student said: ‘He said, um — and I’ll use a racial word, but it’s a quote. He says, “I’m going to go to Trenton and come back with my [N-word]s”‘
- That sparked a fierce response from her classmates at the New Jersey law school with a petition calling on the mature student and Bergelson to apologize
- A faculty meeting Friday also discussed barring the word’s use in class
- Others at the school, including former New Jersey attorney general John Farmer Jr,, have signed a statement in support of Bergelson and the student
A race row has erupted at Rutgers Law School after a white law student used the N-word while quoting a 1993 legal case.
The first year student – a woman who has not been named – used the slur in a class of three during Professor Vera Bergelson’s virtual office hours last October.
In discussing a case she had repeated a quote from a defendant which was then used in an opinion written by former State Supreme Court judge, Alan B. Handler.
The student said: ‘He said, um — and I’ll use a racial word, but it’s a quote. He says, “I’m going to go to Trenton and come back with my [N-word]s”.’
One of her two other classmates at the New Jersey school, a white student, then contacted her to say she should have not used the word.
After one of those present shared their concerns with black classmate, a petition calling on the mature student and Professor Bergelson to apologize circulated.
The petition reads: ‘At the height of a ‘racial reckoning,’ a responsible adult should know not to use a racial slur regardless of its use in a 1993 opinion. We vehemently condemn the use of the N-word by the student and the acquiescence of its usage.’
A faculty meeting Friday also discussed barring the word’s use in class, The New York Times reports.
Others at the school, including former New Jersey attorney general John Farmer Jr and ex state public advocate Ronald K. Chen, have signed a statement in support of Bergelson and the student.
Professor David Lopez said: ‘I share the views of several of our faculty members who understand and express to their students that this language is hateful and can be triggering, even in the context of a case, and ask that it not be used.’
But Professor Gary L. Francione has called a ban ‘problematic’ and ‘implicating matters of academic freedom and free speech’.
He said: ‘Although we all deplore the use of racist epithets, the idea that a faculty member or law student cannot quote a published court decision that itself quotes a racial or other otherwise objectionable word as part of the record of the case is problematic and implicates matters of academic freedom and free speech.’
Professor Dennis M. Patterson added: ‘I don’t think the Law School should have rules that are stricter than the Constitution of the United States.’
Adam Scales, a black professor at Rutgers Law, said: ‘There is something extremely antiseptic about the term ‘N-word’. There is something that softens the impact.’
He has signed the statement of support of Bergelson.
Professor Bergelson, 59, has said she did not her the slur being used during the class last October.
She said she was only made aware of the concerns raised months after the incident when the petition was shared.
The student is said to have spoken with classmates at the time of the incident after they raised concerns.
One of the students in the class then alerted others to a recording of the session and Professor Lopez was told of student concerns.
After the petition surfaced last month Bergelson held a meeting, apologizing for the incident.
She told The New York Times: ‘I wish I could go back in time to that office hour and confront it directly. I would never use the words in class.’
The student’s attorney, Samantha Harris, said: ‘When you’re an attorney, you hear all kinds of horrible things. You represent people who have said horrible things, who have done horrible things.
‘You can’t guarantee a world free of offensive language.’
Co-Deans David Lopez and Kimberly Mutcherson told DailyMail.com in a statement: ‘As the Co-Deans of Rutgers Law School, we recognize the hurt that our students experienced following this incident, and we know that none of the involved parties acted with any ill intent.
‘We are committed to doing better for our community moving forward.
‘This experience raised critical issues about law school pedagogy and provided us with a welcome opportunity to talk as a community of faculty, students, staff, and administration committed to antiracism about productive ways to teach about race in our classrooms.
‘Those discussions are not about stifling academic freedom, ignoring the First Amendment, or banning words, and we are not seeking to alter any of the existing University policies that already protect academic freedom and free speech in the classroom.
‘Instead, we are discussing how best to create classroom environments in which all of our students feel seen, heard, valued, and respected. We are confident that our faculty share that common goal as we work together to train the next generation of leaders for our state and our country.’
LINK TO FULL STORY: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9537519/Race-row-erupts-Rutgers-law-school-white-student-uses-N-word-quoting-legal-case.html