Campus Free Speech

Activists Force Santa Barbara City College VP to Take Leave For Using the N-Word While Explaining Why It's Bad

"I was complicit. I recognize that I need to reflect on what took place and do thoughtful, informed work to educate myself."


Sushirolla2011 / Wikimedia Commons

Santa Barbara City College has placed an administrator, Vice President Lyndsey Maas,* on leave because she used the n-word during a meeting.

The context greatly ameliorates the seriousness of the offense. Maas had been discussing the problem of black students being called this word on campus, and she related a story that involved someone else using the epithet.

This happened during a November 14 meeting of a gender equity working group. When student activists heard about it, they were furious.

"Lyndsay Maas repeated a story a student had told her about a racial slur that was aimed in the student's direction," The Cal Coast News reports. "Five days later, several people speaking at a Santa Barbara Board of Trustees meeting demanded Maas resign."

These people included former student trustee Krystle Farmer and Black Student Union president Naiha Dozier-El, according to The Santa Barbara Independent. The activists "talked about not feeling safe or welcome on campus and shared experiences in which they were called the n-word, were spit on, and were monitored by police in school spaces." They called on the administration to "just believe us."

Maas was a strange target for such frustrations, since it was describing this very problem that got her in trouble. Nevertheless, Akil Hill, a staffer in the admissions office, demanded that SBCC President Anthony Beebe take action. "She made a mistake, and there has to be consequences," said Hill. "You can't continue coming to work like nothing happened."

Beebe eventually placed Maas on leave, though many want her to resign as well, according to The Independent. Maas did not respond to a request for comment, but released this statement:

That word should never be used in any context as it only serves to perpetuate racism, and I was complicit. I recognize that I need to reflect on what took place and do thoughtful, informed work to educate myself. I will spend my future at SBCC more aware of how words can cause pain. Additionally, I will continue to be a part of the changes needed to help battle on campus racism.

Complicit? This sounds like a forced confession. In any case, I don't accept that there's no conceivable reason to ever use the word itself. What if you need to tell a child, for instance, that this is one of those words you just shouldn't say?

I don't know whether Maas is an effective vice president for the college, and I wouldn't necessarily grant an administrator the same protections as a member of the faculty. But she shouldn't have to resign for using the n-word while explaining that the n-word is bad.

The college did not respond to a request for comment.

Correction*: The vice president's name was initially misspelled. This has been corrected.