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OU professor apologizes in email for racial slur; university statement outlines next steps

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An OU professor who used a racial slur in class Tuesday morning sent an apology email Tuesday evening to students in the class.

The email, which The Daily obtained from a Daily employee who attends the class, was sent by Peter Gade, Gaylord director of graduate studies and Gaylord Family Endowed Chair. In Gade’s capstone class, he compared use of the phrase “OK, boomer” to use of the N-word, and he said the full slur.

In the email, Gade called his conduct “inexcusable.”

“I realize the word was hurtful and infuses the racial divisions of our country, past and present,” Gade said in the email. “Use of the word is inappropriate in any — especially educational — settings. I offer my deepest and most sincere apologies. In the coming weeks, I will strive to show you that I am an instructor and teacher who is trustworthy and respectful of all. Please give me that opportunity.”

The email came after a statement from interim OU President Joseph Harroz earlier Tuesday that condemned the speech but acknowledged its protection by the First Amendment.

According to a separate university statement later Tuesday, the class will have an opportunity to meet with Gaylord College leadership.

"Throughout the day, Gaylord College and administrative leadership have met with many students, as well as the faculty member in question, to begin addressing the very real concerns around this issue. On Thursday, the class itself will have the opportunity to meet with Gaylord College leadership to voice concerns and have a conversation about moving forward. We are better together, and together we will learn and grow from events such as this."

A statement was sent out later in the evening by the Dean of Gaylord College Ed Kelley, quoting Gade's use of the phrase "inexcusable mistake" in his apology email to describe Gade's actions.

According to the statement, the college is working to address the issue "now and in the future."

"Words matter. And so do you," Kelley said in the statement. "We have all been deeply impacted by this. We seek for you as students to be whole and have a safe environment in which to learn and thrive."

This story was updated at 8:50 p.m. to include a statement from the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Scott Kirker is a letters and Spanish senior and assistant news managing editor for The Daily. Previously he worked as summer editor-in-chief and as a news reporter covering research and administrative searches.

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