"We would rather not take his course than to endure the emotional exhaustion of carrying on with an instructor that disregards cultural diversity"
A University of Southern California Professor has been placed on leave after saying the Chinese term “Na Ge”, which offended black MBA candidates.
Greg Patton, a professor at the university’s Marshall School of Business, was giving an online lecture about ‘filler words’ in speech when he used the Chinese term.
“If you have a lot of ‘ums and errs,’ this is culturally specific, so based on your native language. Like in China, the common word is ‘that, that, that.’ So in China it might be ‘nèi ge, nèi ge, nèi ge.’”
那个 pronounced nà ge/ nèi ge, is a common interjection word in Mandarin. However, in English, the term sounds similar to the N-word.
In a 21 August email, the MBA candidates accused the professor of pronouncing the Chinese term like the N-word “approximately five times” during the lesson, offending “all of the Black members of our Class.”
Identifying themselves as ‘black MBA Candidates c/o 2022′, the students said they were “appalled” by the professor.
“It was confirmed that the pronunciation of this word is much different than what Professor Patton described in class,” the students wrote.
“The word is most commonly used with a pause in between both syllables. In addition, we have lived abroad in China and have taken Chinese language courses at several colleges and this phrase, clearly and precisely before instruction is always identified as a phonetic homonym and a racial derogatory term, and should be carefully used, especially in the context of speaking Chinese within the social context of the United States.”
The students accused the professor’s actions of being calculated as he “conveniently stop[ped] the zoom recording right before saying the word.”
“Our mental health has been affected,” the group continued. “It is an uneasy feeling allowing him to have the power over our grades. We would rather not take his course than to endure the emotional exhaustion of carrying on with an instructor that disregards cultural diversity and sensitivities and by extension creates an unwelcome environment for us Black students.”
Dean Geoff Garrett apologized for the professor’s use of a “Chinese word that sounds very similar to a vile racial slur in English.”
“I am deeply saddened by this disturbing episode that has caused such anguish and trauma.”
Garrett announced that a new instructor would be replaced for the remainder of the class.
Patton apologized for using the term, stating that he has taught the course for 10 years.
“The inclusion is part of a deep and sustained effort at inclusion as I have reached out to find and include many international, global, diverse, female, broad and inclusive leadership examples and illustrations to enhance communication and interpersonal skill in our global workplace,” he said.
“I have since learned there are regional differences, yet I have always heard and pronounced the word as ‘naaga’ rhyming with ‘dega’.”
USC said Patton “agreed to take a short term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps.”
In other news, a Yale law professor who coined the phrase ‘Tiger Mom’ has been suspended over sexual harassment allegations.