Emory announces action against professor who used racial slur

Emory University in Atlanta has released a statement listing the steps taken against a law professor who used the “N-word” when discussing offensive battery during a class in August.

Paul Zwier, a law professor, was teaching a first-year class about the tort of offensive battery and was detailing a 1967 court case, Fisher v. Carrousel Motor Hotel, in which a black man was refused dining service at a hotel in Texas by a white manager. 

As Campus Reform previously reported, Zwier used the “N-word” when discussing the exchange between Fisher and the hotel employee to explain the significance of the case in relation to offensive battery, which caused students in the course to become uncomfortable.

[RELATED: Prof critical of court system suspended for use of N-word]

“I’m not sure whether I used the ‘N word’ because I don’t remember consciously choosing to use the word,” Zwier wrote in an Aug. 27 statement. “I do remember that there was a reaction from at least one black student to my question, so I may have misspoken. I wondered to myself after class when it was brought to my attention, whether I had mispronounced negro, or said something else.”

“My intent was to eventually raise the racist slur as a possibility to set up the case we would read in the next week, where the ‘N word’ was used again,” the professor added. “I admit that had I used the ‘N word’ this was a mistake on my part and I have no doubt hurt and offended students who heard it or later learned that I had used the word itself. I apologized the next morning.”

Regardless of the apology or Zwier’s intent, Emory decided to suspend him from the classroom until an investigation could be conducted and a resolution be made.

The university’s latest statement on the matter, written by Interim Dean James Hughes and released Tuesday, detailed four steps Zwier has agreed to in order to remedy the incident.

Zwier is allowed back in the classroom but is under a two-year suspension against teaching “mandatory first-year courses” and has agreed to revise his teacher’s manual to address non-offensive ways “racially sensitive” material should be discussed in class. 

Zwier will also receive “sensitivity and unconscious bias training” as well as work with a group of faculty and students “to engage in dialogues focused on racial sensitivity.”

[RELATED: Prof called racist for trying not to be racist]

“We sometimes disagree among ourselves and disappoint each other,” Hughes wrote. “But the ties that bind us compel acceptance of our flaws and forgiveness of transgressions -- especially when mistakes are acknowledged, sincere efforts to make amends are made, and forgiveness is sought.”

“At this moment, we are presented with an opportunity to demonstrate and enhance our strength by drawing our community closer together,” Hughes concluded.  “Let us seize it.”

Emory University and Zwier did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment. 

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