The Insane Story of the USC Professor Suspended for Accurately Quoting Mandarin Filler Word
The story is a few days old, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
Greg Patton is a professor of clinical business communication at the University of Southern California. During a recent virtual classroom session, he was discussing public speaking patterns and the filler words that people use to space out their ideas: um, er, etc. Patton mentioned that the Chinese often use a word that is pronounced like nega.
“In China the common word is ‘that, that that that,’ so in China it might be ‘nega, nega, nega, nega,'” Patton explained to his class. “So there’s different words you’ll hear in different cultures, but they’re vocal disfluencies.”
The poor students whose mental health has been harmed are being offered counseling services:
On Tuesday evening, the USC Marshall School of Business provided Campus Reform with a statement, confirming that Patton is no longer teaching his course.
“Recently, a USC faculty member during class used a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English. We acknowledge the historical, cultural and harmful impact of racist language,” the statement read.
Patton “agreed to take a short term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps.”
Another instructor is temporarily teaching the class.
USC is now “offering supportive measures to any student, faculty, or staff member who requests assistance.” The school is “committed to building a culture of respect and dignity where all members of our community can feel safe, supported, and can thrive.”
He has been using this example for years. Here’s the video of it:
There’s no intent to antogonize. It’s simply an accurate example.
My Chinese teachers *taught* us to use this filler (nèi ge) rather than "um." It has nothing to do with race. I hope his leave is paid….
USC Communications Professor Placed On Leave after Using Chinese Phrase That Sounds Like Racial Slur https://t.co/nDzsHvLTcR
— Sheena Greitens (@SheenaGreitens) September 4, 2020
To the crowd who says they can’t figure out why people signed the Harper’s letter, or what this “cancel culture” stuff is … *this* is what we have been talking about. Utter insanity like this.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has published what is represented to be the strongly worded letter to the USC administration from USC Marshall School of Business Alumni. The whole thing is worth reading but here is my favorite part:
It seems entirely appropriate that the person or persons who brought forth such abusive and dishonest charges should be reprimanded strongly by Marshall not only for the obvious Student Conduct and Integrity violation, but for demeaning the important cause they pretend to stand for.
Amen. It is not the professor who should suffer consequences here, but rather the students who manufactured this ridiculous nontroversy.