LAWRENCE, Kan. – A four-month investigation into a University of Kansas professor who used a racial slur in class has concluded the word was used in an educational context and not intended to be racist.
Assistant communication studies professor Andrea Quenette has been on paid leave since November, when a group of eight graduate students filed a discrimination complaint after she used the slur in response to a question in class.
The university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access notified her on Friday that she did not violate the school's nondiscrimination or racial and ethnic harassment policies when she used the word, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
"This word is offensive, but it was used in the context of retelling a factual event that occurred at another campus," Quenette said, summarizing what the university wrote in a letter explaining its conclusion. "It was not used in racial animus."
The discussion occurred on Nov. 12, a day after a heated, campuswide town hall forum on race. Her comment was in response to a student's question about how to best talk about the event and racial issues with other students.
Quenette responded that as a white woman it was difficult to relate to others' challenges because she has not experienced racial discrimination herself, according to both Quenette and students.
Then she noted that unlike on other campuses where there had been visible racist acts and assaults, she had not seen the racial slur — she used the actual slur — spray-painted on walls at KU.
"Dr. Quenette's deployment of racially violent rhetoric not only creates a non-inclusive environment in opposition to one of the University of Kansas' core tenets, but actively destroys the very possibility of realizing those values and goals," the graduate students, some of whom weren't in the class at the time, wrote in their complaints.
Jyleesa Hampton, a first-year communications graduate student who is black, signed the open letter but was not in the class. She said Friday that the office's conclusion that Quenette didn't violate policy doesn't mean her comments weren't perceived as racist by those who received them.
The university recommended that Quenette undergo cultural competency training, re-evaluate orientation curriculum to include more diversity support and pair up with a faculty member. The school also recommended possibly reassigning duties within the communications department.
University spokesman Joe Monaco confirmed Friday that the investigation was complete and that all involved parties had been notified of the outcome. University administrators won't comment on the findings, Monaco said, citing confidentiality.