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OU Gaylord College professor uses racial slur during class in comparison to 'OK, boomer' phrase

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Editor’s note: Multiple employees of The Daily were present in the classroom during the incident this story references and contributed to this story.

Since this story's publication, interim OU President Joseph Harroz released a statement condemning the use of the slur, and OU's chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists said in a statement that they were not surprised by the incident.

An OU professor in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication used a racial slur during a class Tuesday morning, according to multiple students present in the class.

Peter Gade, director of graduate studies and Gaylord Family Endowed Chair, teaches Journalism, Ethics and Democracy — the only capstone course offered for journalism majors. When asked to comment by a Daily reporter after the class had ended, Gade declined.

Gade was discussing the changes in journalism related to technology and social media and made the point that journalism should stick to its more traditional roots, according to multiple students in the class.

Gade then called on a student who said journalists have to keep up with the younger generations as they continue to change. Gade said the student’s comment was the equivalent of saying “OK, boomer” to him. 

The class broke into light laughter but was interrupted by Gade’s next comment.

“Calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a n-----,” Gade said.

Molly Kruse, The Daily’s assistant culture editor, told Gade during the class that was not a word he should use, and he attempted to defend it and then changed the subject.

Some students left the classroom immediately afterward, and others left once class ended and Gade kept talking over the scheduled time for the class. Students present at that time said he told the class he was sorry if he offended anyone.

Ed Kelley, dean of Gaylord College, said the first thing they wanted to do in Gaylord was meet with students, so he, associate dean David Craig and assistant dean Yvette Walker met with five students from the class afterward. 

“I’m not sure that (type of language) does (have a place in the classroom),” Kelley said. “Perhaps it did once upon a time. Perhaps he was using it as an educational tool. We have no record at all of Dr. Gade, a distinguished professor who's been on the faculty here for more than 20 years, of him ever using this term, much less any kind of other racially inflamed language.”

In addition to being a faculty member, Gade is co-editor of "Changing the News: The Forces Shaping Journalism in Uncertain Times," and co-author of "Twilight of Press Freedom: The Rise of People’s Journalism," according to his OU biography.

Some students from the class said that in the meeting, they informed Kelley that they will not be attending class as long as Gade is the professor.

Kelley said once they have more perspectives, the deans will go to Gade with the reactions from students and tell him what students heard, and what the deans have learned on “how best to correct the situation.”

“We wanted to hear from (the students) exactly, not only what was said, but in the context what was said. And then just importantly, their reaction to what was said,” Kelley said. “We also are going to reach out today and try to talk to the African American students who are in the class ... We want to get their perspective as well, if they want to share with us, and they don't have to.”

Kelley said students have shared with them that they feel uncomfortable, but they are in a “fact-finding” mode right now to hear from as many students as possible, then to share what they’ve learned with Gade and pursue next steps.

“We're going to try to figure out a way that we can resolve ... the real issues that they have, in a way that we can all here in the college go forward,” Kelley said. “We're trying to work through this as best we know how, and I think the best process that we know has to be as open and aboveboard as we can be and, listening to students today is job one.”

OU's Black Emergency Response Team tweeted its response to the incident at 2:35 p.m.

The Daily reached out to Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs David Surratt at 10:45 a.m. and had not received a response as of 1:20 p.m. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Editor's note: It is OU Daily style to use "n-----" when directly quoting the racial slur it refers to. An earlier version of this story referred to the slur as "n-word," but that was changed at 5:45 p.m. to reflect the fact that the professor in question used the entire word when he spoke to his class.

Bailey Lewis and Nick Hazelrigg contributed to this report. Lewis is a student in Gaylord College who is also in Gade's capstone class. 

This story was updated at 2:45 p.m. to include a tweet from OU's Black Emergency Response Team, and was also updated at 5:15 p.m. to include links to further stories on Harroz's statement and the OU chapter of NABJ's statement.

news managing editor

Jordan Miller is a journalism and political science junior serving as The Daily's news managing editor. Previously she served as The Daily's spring 2019 news editor, fall 2018 assistant visual editor and was an SGA beat reporter.

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