‘Anti-blackness and classroom racism’: Senators condemn professor’s repeated use of racial slur

May 5, 2020, 10:50 p.m.

The Undergraduate Senate on Tuesday approved a resolution condemning assistant art history professor Rose Salseda for writing the N-word twice in a Canvas discussion board on Monday after saying the word in a class guest lecture last Tuesday. The resolution also calls on Stanford to begin departmentalizing the African and African-American Studies (AAAS) program.

“The fact that she repeated the N-word yesterday is just her intentionally trolling us,” said Senator and resolution author Kobe Hopkins ’22. “Why do we have to put up with that kind of racial violence?”

Salseda used the racial slur while writing the full name of the group N.W.A. and when discussing one of its albums on the class Canvas for AFRICAAM 291: “Riot!: Visualizing Civil Unrest in the 20th and 21st Centuries.” Salseda deleted the comment on Tuesday evening after several students raised concerns and The Daily reached out to her. Later that night, she wrote a note to the class that she wanted to be “in dialogue” with students about their concerns.

“I want to listen, answer any questions I can, and work toward and reshape the next steps I’ve been working so hard on over the past week regarding accountability and healing,” Salseda wrote.

Senate Chair Munira Alimire ’22 said the academic context of the slur was not sufficient justification for its use: “No matter what you say or do, the N-word is still a slur, and you can’t reclaim it if you’re not a black person,” she said.

Student backlash also followed after Salseda read a portion of N.W.A. lyrics containing the N-word while guest lecturing in CSRE 196C: “Introduction to Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity” on April 28. The class is taught by comparative studies in race and ethnicity (CSRE) professor Tomás Jiménez and CSRE adjunct professor David Kim.

“I apologize for reading the NWA lyric during today’s lecture,” Salseda wrote in a note forwarded to students by Jiménez and Kim after the guest lecture. “I will not read that type of text again.”

The Daily has reached out to Salseda and the University for comment.

The resolution, among other demands, calls on Salseda, Jiménez and Kim to issue apologies, participate in identity and cultural humility training and reconsider or step down from teaching certain courses. The resolution reflects demands made by students in an open letter to the professors and their associated departments, according to Hopkins.

“There isn’t any institution or any sort of movement within Stanford to hold people accountable for anti-blackness and this kind of classroom racism,” Hopkins said. 

The resolution also calls on the University to begin taking steps to departmentalize AAAS. As an academic program, but not a department, AAAS cannot hire and retain faculty or offer consistent classes without the commitment of professors from other departments, according to Alimire. 

Senators said the departmentalization of AAAS would allow more AAAS classes to be taught by black people.

“Stanford is the world’s leading teaching institution,” Hopkins said. “They should have black people teaching black liberation and black studies.”

Kate Selig served as the Vol. 260 editor in chief. Contact her at kselig 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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