A popular professor at a California has been suspended for saying a Chinese word, actually the Chinese equivalent of the filler word “um,” while he was teaching an online class, according to MailOnline.
Greg Patton was giving an online lecture for students at the University of Southern California when he cited the Chinese expression “neige” (pronounced nee-gah), repeating it several times.
A group of hypersensitive students thought the word sounded too much like the slur nigger and threatened to withdraw from the class rather than “endure the emotional exhaustion of carrying on with an instructor that disregards cultural sensitivities.”
“Our mental health has been affected,” members of the group claimed.
Astoundingly, the university has backed the students. In an apology, it said: “Recently a faculty member during class used a Chinese word that sounds similar to a vile racial slur in English. Understandably, this caused great pain and upset among students. We acknowledge the historical, cultural and harmful impact of racist language and offer supportive measures to any student, faculty or staff member who requests assistance.”
According to the university’s website, Patton is “an expert in communication” and has received many teaching awards. Still, the university said, he has been placed on administrative leave “while we review the situation and take any appropriate next steps.”
In an email last week, Patton was forced to explain he had been taught to pronounce the word as he had in Shanghai, adding: “I have strived to best prepare students with real-world examples to make the class come alive. I did not connect this in the moment to any English words and certainly not any racial slur.”