Campus Free Speech

Statements from USC Dean and Provost About the Greg Patton / "Neige" Controversy

The framing is now that Prof. Patton's example was unduly "polarizing" -- but does that normally call for a professor to be switched in the middle of the course?

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[UPDATE 9/9/20 8:45 pm: I at first inadvertently posted the Dean's letter twice, I think because the Provost's PDF had some security setting that silently kept copy and paste from working; I've now corrected that, and the post below shows both the Dean's letter and the Provost's. My apologies!]

Here is what seems to be the USC Marshall School of Business Dean's response about the controversy:

September 6, 2020

Dear Marshall alumni and friends,

I wanted to take a moment to clarify my message to students at the Marshall School. It was absolutely not my intention to cast any aspersions on specific Mandarin words or on Mandarin generally.

The student complaints we received had nothing to do with the Mandarin language but focused on the use of a polarizing example Professor Patton used when trying to make a reasonable and important point about communication. In his apology to students, he noted he could have chosen a better example to illustrate his point. With Professor Patton's agreement, he did not finish his accelerated course for our MBA students that ended last week. We are now following standard university procedures to explore the complaints students have raised.

Since I began my tenure at USC Marshall just two months ago, I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the school's ongoing and future globalization efforts. USC Marshall is blessed with students, faculty and staff from many countries and cultures. I want nothing more than to build relationships with all members of the Trojan family, including and especially the extensive network in Asia.

One of the reasons I am so thrilled to be dean is that the Marshall community is committed to developing and strengthening a learning environment that values greater cultural understanding, one in which all members feel seen, heard, and valued. We respect and honor unconditionally all languages and cultures of our students, faculty and staff and believe each has an important place in our community.

And here is the USC Provost's response:

September 8, 2020

Thank you for your email. I am responding on behalf of President Folt and Dean Garrett.

We appreciate your concerns and take them seriously. In this particular case at the Marshall School, the course was scheduled to run for three weeks and, after student complaints were lodged, the professor volunteered to step away for the final two weeks. He was not dismissed nor suspended nor was his status changed. We are required to investigate all complaints and have a thorough process for doing so which we began immediately.

The complaints occurred in a course in communication across cultural lines. Its purpose is to prepare students to be successful in business around the world. There is no intent to impose U.S. cultural norms on communications in other languages and cultures. Indeed, this situation arose when students questioned the polarizing example chosen to illustrate a reasonable and important point about communication and had nothing to do with the Mandarin language itself. As the professor said in his apology, the example used in this lecture could have been better chosen.

USC is a multicultural institution dedicated to providing the very best education that prepares our graduates for success in their chosen careers across the globe. We are committed to meeting this mission for our more than 45,000 students through robust debate of ideas across 8,000 classes every term. Occasionally, anomalies like this occur and we can assure you that our internal procedures are fair and appropriate. Thank you once again for your message of concern.

It seems to me, though, that the statements don't really discuss the core problem here. Prof. Patton was talking about business communication, and in particular about filler words ("um," "er," and the like). In the process, he gave an example not from Albanian (to give some arbitrarily selected language), but from the most widely spoken native language in the world, and one with which Prof. Patton—as an expert on business in China—was understandably quite familiar.

That word, often transliterated "neige," sounds somewhat like the English-language slur "nigger." But to the extent that this is "polarizing" because it upsets some students, it is the job of USC to teach those students (as part of their "greater cultural understanding") that they should not be upset by such accidents of language. Rather, they should be taught that business school graduates should expect to hear this word if they ever find themselves around Chinese speakers, and to react to it without upset.

Instead, USC concluded that this incident should lead to an utterly extraordinary remedy (whether or not truly voluntary on the professor's part): replacing the professor a third of the way through the course. That's not just a message that the professor gave an example that "could have been better chosen" (even if one agrees that a different example should have been chosen). Normally, in such a situation of simply an ill-chosen example, the professor would simply say "Sorry, I could have chosen a better example."

Rather, the message is that the professor did something very wrong indeed—that English-speaking listeners should rightly treat ordinary use of "neige" when talking about Chinese as a grave offense, rather than catching themselves and saying to themselves "Oh, wait, this is Chinese, of course this is just an accidental homonym." And implicit in that is the message that Chinese speakers should watch what they say, not just in examples but in ordinary conversation that could be overheard, or risk being pushed into similarly extraordinary (even if supposedly "voluntar[y]") remedies for acting in an "[ill-]chosen" or "polarizing" way.

UPDATE: An apt summary from a reader: (1) "Greg Patton is still lying under the bus that Geoff Garrett threw him under, bleeding." (2) "He [Dean Garrett] never addresses … what this means going forward when the next professor uses a foreign word that is misinterpreted."

Relatedly, Dean Garrett writes, "It was absolutely not my intention to cast any aspersions on specific Mandarin words." The Provost writes, "We respect and honor unconditionally all languages and cultures of our students, faculty and staff and believe each has an important place in our community." And yet this one word has been labeled by the Dean and the Provost as potentially "polarizing" and not to be "chosen" as part of examples; agree or disagree, but that sounds like an aspersion to me.

NEXT: Classes #7: Enumerated Powers V and the Recording System

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  1. You will be made to care. Voluntarily.

    1. Or maybe you will get banned, like Artie Ray.

      Or censored, like someone who uses “c@p s@ccor” or “sl@ck-j@w.”

      1. Kirkland, I, personally, have been hurt far worse than you ever could have been, and I’m not the only one.

        It’s not just fault lines that have pent up stress…

      2. Lol Kirkland’s butt is still sore after all these years. That secret Ukrainian butt torture must really be something.

        1. Any mention of your hero’s hypocrisy triggers you. I blame your experience as a culture war casualty for this crankiness and weakness.

          One must admire, however, the dexterity required to type anything when the sycophant’s tongue is so firmly affixed to the master’s . . . [rhymes with totem]

          1. I’m going to go against my better judgment, and defend RAK here.

            The Artie Ray Jim Bob Kirkland account, or whatever it was, added no value (and, more, importantly, wasn’t even close to funny). And, while I didn’t see the, I’m sure the “cop succor” and “slack jaw” comments were similarly unhelpful in developing a constructive discussion.

            I would have no problem with such accounts being banned, or such comments being deleted. But considering the comments that remain, and the accounts that are unbanned, these decisions seem a little questionable.

            (On the other hand, both the passage of time and the stuff that RAK posts without apparent objection does seem to draw the sting, and I’ll admit he’s not the best ambassador for his cause.)

            1. I’m going to guess, (And I admit it is only a guess.) that given the tenor of RAK’s normal ‘contributions’, and the sort of comments people regularly get away with here, whatever got his earlier account banned was an outlier of impressive proportions.

              The thing about skating close to the edge, is that it becomes perfectly natural to skate over it, and skating over it won’t seem like much of a deviation to the skater.

              1. In what way are ‘c@p succ@r’ and ‘sl@ck j@w’ close to the edge?

                You may ignore the Zyklon shower, ‘gas the liberal judges,’ and liberals face-down in landfills issue if you wish in attempting to defend the censorship involving those two terms.

            2. “The Artie Ray Jim Bob Kirkland account, or whatever it was, added no value…”

              Of course, the same could be said of Rev. Kirkland. When you see his screen name, you can just about always predict exactly what he’s going to say. It’s the same stuff he was posting back when the Conspiracy was still in the Washington Post.

              1. I’d say I agree with him maybe 0.5% of the time.

              2. It goes all the way back to when the VC had it’s own web site.

              3. In my opinion, in the volokh.com days, Arthur Kirkland actually did a reasonably useful job of pointing out some of the ideological blind spots from the posters and commenters. He was still insufferably smug about it, of course, and had a strange penchant for pretending to actually be Arthur Kirkland or Al Pacino, but on the whole I found him useful. Since shifting to the Artie Ray whatever and Reverend “parody” accounts, I agree that his contributions have gotten increasingly tiresome and one-note, though I do think he’s gotten better in the last few months,

                1. “had a strange penchant for pretending to actually be Arthur Kirkland or Al Pacino”

                  I guess I never got over losing to Ted Kramer, that talentless hack.

                2. “had a strange penchant for pretending to actually be Arthur Kirkland or Al Pacino”

                  Here’s some video of Kirkland from the old V.C.

            3. “But considering the comments that remain, and the accounts that are unbanned, these decisions seem a little questionable.”

              It was repeatedly pointed out at the time that no one was promising that moderation would be consistent.

              But in any event, it was like 10 years ago. Questionable or not, the fact that Kirkland is still butthurt after all this time just speaks volumes about Prof V’s ability to inflict, uh, butthurt.

              1. “It was repeatedly pointed out at the time that no one was promising that moderation would be consistent.”

                I agree. This is the proprietor’s playground, so it’s the proprietor’s rules. Criticizing viewpoint-driven censorship, however, seems reasonable, especially in the context of someone who incessantly offers pointers to the strong liberal-libertarian schools.

                “But in any event, it was like 10 years ago.”

                You must have missed the big ‘500 day’ celebration — the most recent documented instance of viewpoint-controlled censorship occurred roughly 18 months ago.

                Other than that, though, great comment!

            4. “I would have no problem with such accounts being banned, or such comments being deleted. But considering the comments that remain, and the accounts that are unbanned, these decisions seem a little questionable.”

              The censorship decisions are predictable and driven by partisanship.

              Comments inviting me (and other liberals, and liberal judges) to a Zyklon shower, to be placed face-down in landfills, to be shot as we open front doors, and to be gassed are still available for review at the Volokh Conspiracy.

              My uses of ‘c@p succ@r’ are still censored; Artie Ray is still banned; the warning against use of ‘sl@ck j@w’ still stands. No apology, no apparent regret, no pledge to do better.

              That is as much as anyone needs to know — including anyone at USC considering taking pointers on free expression from this blog.

              1. Why would anyone pledge anything to a a troll, kirkland? And that would be free expression w/in the parameters listed above, within which you almost never fall. I was mistaken, you are interested in civil liberties. Your own.

  2. I am sooo glad that I retired in 2014 after 40 years.

    I would certainly have been drawn and quartered for my Kingsfield teaching style. Does anyone remember Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase (1973).

    1. Skulls full of mush! Never truer.

    2. “Mister Hart, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer.”

    3. I remember also; respect the old fashioned way, earned!

    4. Yeah, he was a son-of-a-bitch.

  3. I can’t wait until they find out the Spanish word for black.

    1. Don’t tell them. They will ban my favorite beer.

  4. “polarizing example”?!? That’s just stupid. The professor should not have apologized and the dean is just doubling down on his aspersions and innuendo.

    On a separate note, your quote of the Provost’s response appears to be a copy of the Dean’s letter. Not that the Provost’s was any better.

  5. Typical administrator bullshit talk.

  6. “Greg Patton is still lying under the bus that Geoff Garrett threw him under, bleeding.”

    Opps. Accidents happen. Life’s not fair.

  7. Oddly, I couldn’t find any reference to this controversy on the USC newspaper. Is it Fake News?

    1. USC Annenberg Media has covered it twice, but the Daily Trojan indeed seems not to have done that. (I don’t know to what extent the Trojan tends to cover professional schools.)

      1. USC Annenberg Media has covered it twice, but the Daily Trojan indeed seems not to have done that.

        Perhaps they are covering also; like Trojans, but those other Trojans®.

        “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.” –David Burge

  8. Notice how the Dean and the President keyed in on the Professor’s “apology”? Such apologies may make sense at an individual level in order to avoid more negative repercussions, but at a macro level they just encourage such behavior by University Administrations and other woketavists (not a term I coined, but I like it).

    1. Indeed. “With Professor Patton’s agreement, he did not finish his accelerated course for our MBA students that ended last week.”

      “With Professor Patton’s agreement, he was not unceremoniously fired, and blacklisted by every institution we have influence with.”

  9. Typical weak sauce for word salad we’ve come to expect from deans.

    Also.

    Never apologize.

    1. Well he didn’t apologize at all for throwing the professor under the bus and actually doubled down on it so thats something?

  10. Any extra pleasure pillorying cross-town rival (back when there were Pac 12 sports) USC, Prof. Volokh?

    1. orin ed deniro: Actually, no. I’ve never seen the appeal of such rivalries; I know USC law school is pretty much the peer of UCLA, and the same appears to be so for the business school.

      1. I am a bit surprised at how many have cited that sports rivalry in relation to these posts.

  11. Don’t worry, clingers, we’ll add a slight seasoning of SJW self-righteousness before forcing this xenophobia down your throat sideways.

    1. When there’s a line at the Vietnamese soup place, you have to stand in the pho queue.

  12. on the use of a polarizing example Professor Patton used

    Dean needs remedial English too.

  13. The French word for ‘seal’ (the animal) is ‘phoque’, pronounced exactly as you might imagine. I guess seals are now taboo in the US, at least in law schools. Message sent and received.

    1. Well. if we killed a few thousand seals, we wouldn’t have the problem of human beings being eaten by sharks in New England…

      This isn’t global warming — it’s that a human in form-fitting black neoprene looks like a tasty seal….

      1. As an aside, why aren’t wet suits made in Blaze Orange?

        Just wondering….

        1. Good question.

          I grew up in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara, and body surfed in my tanned skin, more than once with a seal next to me at arms length.

          But that they both have passed, I might ask my mother, ‘The Lady Who Walks’ to ask her friend Jack O’Neill why no blaze orange recreational wetsuits.

          Those were good times, no safety-ism, lots of adventures.

          1. 80-90 years ago, a well-intended Federal Government protected Sea Gulls, Canada Geese, and Seals.

            All are way overpopulated now — the USF&W is now hiring people to shoot gulls to protect endangered birds (but won’t let fishermen do it), non-migratory Canada Geese are destroying public parks and crashing airplanes (Remember “Miracle on the Hudson”?), and the seals not only eat a bushel or more of fish a day (per seal) but are why the Great White Sharks are hanging around close to shore.

            Yes, there were sharks in the Gulf of Maine back in the 1970’s — way out in the deep water and the USCG flew out to watch them and ensure they were staying offshore. And seals were an oddity.

            Now they are everywhere, as are the sharks. This is not nanny-state, they are here now, and they didn’t used to be.

        2. Because sharks are color blind?

          1. And from below that blaze orange suit would still appear as mostly just a dark grey/black shape, even without color blindness.

  14. So if I wrote that the Dean and Provost are lily-livered cowards, who are not fit to lead a nursey school, would that be casting “aspersions” on their character? Or just an inappropriate example?

    1. It would be true. Adminicritters are a spinless species.

      1. err…they’re full of spin but lack any spine.

  15. The French word for ‘seal’ (the animal) is ‘phoque’, pronounced exactly as you might imagine. I guess seals are now taboo in the US, at least in law schools. Message sent and received.

    Well every federal courtroom I have been in has the Great Seal of the United States somewhether behind the judge. Wonder what would happen if I said, “You Honor, that’s a Great Phoque you have there behind your chair.”

  16. Will the real Mao Zedong please stand up?
    I repeat, will the real Mao Zedong please stand up?
    We’re gonna have a problem here.

  17. I realize this is usually too much to ask of an administrator, but . . . Why can’t the dean and provost bring themselves to apologize for making a hasty, ill-considered response to a student complaint?

    Prof. Patton apologized, even though he actually had done nothing wrong. Now the administrators are using his apology to justify their own dumb actions, rather than apologizing themselves.

    By insisting that they are really doing the right thing, without even bothering to address the core problem (that the complaining students should be educated and not coddled), they continue to make matters worse.

    1. Did prof Patton voluntarily apologize? Or was it more like another cultural struggle session?

      1. Might as well speculate ourselves closer to the preferred narrative!

        This is dumb, and it is well and good that USC is getting dragged for it. But the thirst on the right to really make the anti-left drama pop is making for some ridiculous posts.

        1. The Dean and the culturally and linguistically ignorant students who created the drama in the first place deserve every ridiculous post that they get.

          And, comparing this to the Maoist cultural revolution wasn’t even my idea, although i’d love to take credit. It was brought up in quite a few of the individual reactions.

          1. Yup. It wasn’t the right that brought the Cultural Revolution into it, despite the motivated reasoning of some.

          2. Yeah, the other side is bad so why not make things up?

            You’re not just making a comparison, you’re drawing factual conclusions.

            1. You doth protest too much.

              1. ? dwb68 is making things up.

                I protest exactly enough.

                1. I am not sure if you are gaslighting, suffer reading comprehensions issues, or have short term memory problems from too much weed.

                  In any case, go back and read read the reactions of the students in the original post. Thankfully, its all written down so whatever your problem is you can self-correct it.

          3. “The Dean and the culturally and linguistically ignorant students who created the drama in the first place deserve every ridiculous post that they get.”

            How many posts does the Volokh Conspiracy deserve for partisan hypocrisy and repeated, viewpoint-controlled censorship?

        2. Does your ass hurt when you knee-jerk for your in-group like that? Patton may have apologized because he was genuinely sorry he had somehow, after years of using the same example innocently, caused offense. Or, he may have been pressured, in a number of ways. I don’t know. I am wagering you don’t know. But, you will rule out the possibility that anything that makes your group looks bad may be possible, right? How long until you admit that this is bias on your part?

          1. I indeed don’t know. But I didn’t make a factual assertion.

            dwb68 did make an assertion, and he knows no more than I do. That’s my issue.

            1. I indeed don’t know. But I didn’t make a factual assertion.

              dwb68 did make an assertion, and he knows no more than I do. That’s my issue.

              Aaaaaannd…you’re still a lying sack of crap. What he actually said, verbatim:

              “Did prof Patton voluntarily apologize? Or was it more like another cultural struggle session?”

              That’s not even close to a factual assertion. It’s speculating on a possible alternative explanation. A factual assertion would be more like:

              “Patton didn’t voluntarily apologize. He was forced to by (whomever, for whatever reason).”

  18. Where exactly is Patton’s apology, and why would he help his persecutors save face?

    1. Because he’s not independently wealthy, and actually needs to be employed for some years to come, and ideally not as a Walmart greeter.

      1. So we’ve all been relegated to prostitution? If the client spits in your face, you beg forgiveness for being in his way?

        1. I’d rather be a Walmart greeter than a whore …

          1. Melania Trump does not approve that message.

        2. Nah, I’m a senior tooling engineer. The client generally profusely thanks me for taking their ill thought out design and making it cheaper to manufacture and more functional.

          Seriously, people will generally take a lot of shit if the alternative is becoming destitute. He is, however, on notice to start looking for a new gig, because’s not like they’re going to change for the better.

        3. When Dick Cheney shot Harry Whittington in the face, Whittington apologized to Cheney.

          1. Whittington sounds like the kind of clinger who runs around shooting birds for sport with the likes of Dick Cheney. I also recall that he was a partisan liar.

          2. Whittington was in the wrong and should have apologized. Whittington violated a big-time safety role — kinda like not walking out onto runways when planes are landing on them.

            Anything involving guns is inherently dangerous — that’s why there are safety rules and safety protocols. For example, everyone agrees that the bullets will be going over there, so none of us will be over there. And that’s what Whittington violated.

            Like going out on a runway when planes are landing.

  19. This is where I start to think that we need active Klan chapters for balance.

    “The student complaints we received had nothing to do with the Mandarin language but focused on the use of a polarizing example Professor Patton used when trying to make a reasonable and important point about communication.

    Bullshite….

    “In his EXTORTED apology to students, he noted he could have chosen a better example to illustrate his point.

    IANAL but I seem to remember something about contracts signed under duress….

    “With Professor Patton’s agreement, he did not finish his accelerated course”

    “Agreement” my arse.

    Heaven help me, but this is why I think we need Right-wing crazies burning down buildings as well. Without this, we’re going to inherently lose in the balance between the loony Left and the rational Right.

    1. Congratulations—just when I thought I’d started to get a handle on what a despicable shit you are, you’ve managed to set a new low.

      1. May I inquire as to how much of a background in either Political Science or History you may have? Or if you are familiar with what George Santana said about the latter?

        1. George Santana was a good friend of mine. Once when I was co-teaching his history/political science class at Mount Holyoke, he told me that his views on history boiled down to you, Dr. Ed, being a despicable shit.

          1. Cute.

            Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás left Harvard (and the United States) in 1912, never to return, and died in 1858.

            Res ipsa loquitur.

            1. And what he said was that “[t]hose who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

            2. That’s just because he heard about the Kangaroo Kourts at UMass Amherst. But he frequently told me about his absolute and unabiding contempt for you personally.

              Prove me wrong………l

              1. UMass was a small engineering college when he died in 1958.
                Prove his posthumous communications.

            3. “…left Harvard (and the United States) in 1912, never to return, and died in 1858.”

              He taught at Harvard for decades after he died? That’s taking tenure too far.

              1. Stranger thingers could happen. Tenure, like qualified immunity, needs to go.

  20. First, the reports say that he “voluntarily” stepped down. Do you think this is true, or do you think he was tortured with his greatest fear, like Winston Smith was in 1984. I would guess his biggest fear is being fired, and never being able to find a job again.

    Did you notice that the students’ letter said he intentionally mispronounced the word? “The word is most commonly used with a pause in between both syllables,” they wrote, according to the National Review. “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.”

    Yet, numerous native Mandarin speakers said this is not true. “The alumni said they represent more than a dozen nationalities and ethnicities. They called Patton’s example “an accurate rendition of a common Chinese use, and an entirely appropriate and quite effective illustration of the use of pauses.”

    Did the complaining students purposely misrepresent the facts so that they could get publicity? If so, they should be dismissed from USC Marshall. Liability goes both ways. Is USC Marshall investigating this? Will no one at USC Marshall defend Professor Winston Smith?

    Finally, there is a megathread on Reddit defending Professor Marshall. Here are some excerpts:

    “I grew up speaking Mandarin. Whoever those students are that were a part of the report, they need to take a good look at themselves and consider that they themselves are racist. It is not racist to speak another language. American English is not the only language in the world.”

    “All cultures are equal, but some are more equal than others. All languages are equal, but some are more equal than others. All races are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

    “There is certainly going a to a multi-million dollar lawsuit that the prof will certainly win. I am sure he has every lawyer pounding down his door.”

    “you know what I want to see? apart from proper actions by the administration and the dean, I want to see IF the complainants recognize the irony in that their complaint has now resulted in an action that is discriminatory towards ANOTHER group.”

    “Alum here. This makes ‘SC look like ridiculous.”

    “If these students find this to be “harmful to their mental health” then they shouldn’t be in International Business.”

    “Anyone know where alumni can email the administration and let them know they won’t be getting any money anymore from me ?”

    “This Dean should take a leave of absence too and ponder his decision-making process.”

    “I also don’t know if they were lying or whatever about asking Chinese students, but the pronunciation is not totally off point and the pause thing simply isn’t true for many Chinese speakers.”

    “While we reinstate to professor, can we punish those who put him on leave for not doing the right thing to teach these MBA students there’s culture and language outside of their world. Understanding differences in culture is one of the biggest part of business.”

    “There are 1,500,000,000 people in the world who speak Chinese, and administration couldn’t bother to ask one of them.”

    1. “There are 1,500,000,000 people in the world who speak Chinese, and administration couldn’t bother to ask one of them.”

      Sounds like most administrators I’ve had to deal with….

      1. One of the people involved Vice Deal Yang appears to a native of China.

    2. ““The word is most commonly used with a pause in between both syllables,”

      I don’t speak more than a word or two of Chinese, but I do enjoy watching Chinese movies with the original sound track, and subtitled. That’s total BS.

      Just a general understanding of the way language works would assure you that was almost certainly false; Filler words aren’t going to have pauses in them. It would be contrary to the way they work in speech.

      1. Quite true, any fluent speaker does not pause during use of idioms, filler phrases. Who does? Poor speakers at a halting ‘my name is’ level, not conversational level. How many English as 1st language Americans say ‘uu-um,’ ‘we-ell,’ ‘err-rr,’ ‘oh-kay,’ and similar? And Americans talk fairly slowly. If we look at French and Spanish fillers, then other Asian languages, the pause claim for conversational use becomes more likely to be little more than a support for the accusation of malicious use.

        1. “How many English as 1st language Americans say ‘uu-um,’ ‘we-ell,’ ‘err-rr,’ ‘oh-kay,’ and similar?”

          I do — and know lots more who do, although it may be regional and reflective.

  21. Sad state of academia and society to see so many people falling all over themselves to apologize. I’m disgusted with the offended students seeking a me-too moment while wrapped up in self-centered outsized sensitivities. Give them a participation trophy, a watered-down degree, and buhbye.

    1. Or a Black Neoprene swimsuit….

  22. This is 2020:

    … in particular about filler words (“um,” “er,” and the like)

    should be “… in particular about filler words (“um,” “er,” and “like”)

  23. Garbage people do garbage things.

  24. As supporters of lynching explained numerous times in their various non-apologies, they have nothing against black people in general, just those who don’t know their place.

    The gist of this non-apology seems very similar.

  25. Prof. Volokh, thank you for for your actions to keep this bigly issue alive. Hopefully your efforts will spawn great and wonderful changes.

    1. The Conspiracy has made great strides along that line. When that professor was fired by Wheaton for saying that Muslims might be decent people, I doubt the Conspiracy offered a single post. Very few of Trump’s offenses against freedom of expression were mentioned here. But this thing has already generated three or four posts (and counting).

      That’s progress, clinger-style!

  26. Wonder what would have happened if the professor uttering these shocking words had himself been Chinese.

  27. “The student complaints we received had nothing to do with the Mandarin language…”

    I think this is what the woke call “gaslighting.”

    1. Gaslighting is lying about something the target already has knowledge of.

      There is no evidence here of lying on this issue, nor do you have facts regarding student complaints.

      It’s incredible how on this issue that’s already a clean win against leftist nonsense, conservatives feel the need to make stuff up and try and run up the score with their own nonsense.

      1. A clean win? A clean win would be if the administrators backed down, admitted how inappropriate their initial response was, and clarified that it is not their prerogative to police the use of “polarizing examples” in faculty communications. As it stands, the administration has not backed down an inch and the publicity over this incident will inevitably have a chilling effect on that campus and elsewhere in academia.

        And it may not technically be a lie to state that “student complaints we received had nothing to do with the Mandarin language,” it is certainly a lie to say that the Mandarin language (which the Dean claims to “respect and honor unconditionally,” whatever that means) has nothing to do with the dispute as a whole. The question isn’t whether the student complaints were about the Mandarin language but rather whether complaints motivated by ignorance and a desire to weaponize victim status ought to be encouraged and rewarded by an institution ostensibly organized for the purpose of educating adults.

        1. Fair enough. I meant it’s a clean win ideologically.
          The left and this school look like clowns near universally. I’ve seen them mocked on the more liberal message boards I visit, even.

          I’m speaking specifically to what TiP wrote. Of *course* the dean is trying to have it both ways and failing. That seems to be the pattern whenever a school gets egg on it’s face; school administrators just suck at PR, I guess.

          I don’t think there’s a lot of disagreement on these issues in this thread.

          And maybe that lack of resistance is why I see people speculating themselves into ridiculous scenarios that have no factual support, but sure do make all schools out as lying Marxist dystopias.

        2. “A clean win? A clean win would be if the administrators backed down, admitted how inappropriate their initial response was, and clarified that it is not their prerogative to police the use of “polarizing examples” in faculty communications…”

          I don’t know. If that had happened, it would have been less clear how thoroughly leftist nonsense has corrupted higher ed.

          But the incident as unfolding clearly demonstrates the extent to which academics are forced to humiliate themselves to satisfy the Woke religious zealots.

      2. “Gaslighting is lying about something the target already has knowledge of.”

        Yup. And we already know the relationship between the student complaints and the Mandarin language.

      3. The claim that Patton used the term out of malice, resulting in him apologizing. That seems like he was gaslighted. But, you are still making this about your preferred viewpoint.

        1. If that’s what TiP was saying, that’s what he should have typed.

          We also don’t know that the school and prof are both lying about his motives. (Though I allow it’s a possibility).

        2. “The claim that Patton used the term out of malice…”

          An unsupported and wholly speculative claim that someone speaking Mandarin is acting “out of malice” has plenty to do with the Mandarin language.

          1. Doing a lot of speculation on people’s motives yourself there, TiP.

  28. Neige is French for ‘snow’. There’s also the African country Niger.

  29. “The directors of the firm hired to continue the credits after the other people had been sacked, wish it to be known that they have just been sacked. The credits have been completed in an entirely different style at great expense and at the last minute.”

  30. If “nei ge” (那个) which means “that” is banned, what about “zhe ge” (这个) which means “this”? The “zh” is pronounced with a ‘J’ sound, so if we go through life looking for reasons to be offended, we can claim that “zhe ge” is offensive because it’s anti-Semitic. It would be just as legitimate as pretending that “nei ge” is racist.

  31. “There is no intent to impose U.S. cultural norms on communications in other languages and cultures,” but it is unacceptable for Mandarin speakers to use a common term that sounds like a slur specific to American culture.
    Students being triggered by a commonly used Mandarin word “had nothing to do with the Mandarin language itself.”

  32. An “apology” in a context where there is the threat of university discipline has zero credibility.

    If the administration had behaved ethically, and said, “look, the complaints made by the students do not remotely indicate any violations of any University policies, and the professor is free to use any examples of filler words that he sees fit…” then the professor could have apologized meaningfully, if he were so inclined.

    But when there’s no freedom, there’s no credibility.

  33. Shorter version:

    The ritual punishment was not about the Chinese language. Please keep sending Chinese students here. They pay full tuition. Our woke religion should be no barrier to receiving this money. Even the professor has agreed to our actions in order to remain within our order.

    1. Ouch. But, accurate.

  34. I flew from Denver to Brussels, the over-water part was overnight and I had to work so no sleep. Upon arrival I went into a meeting. I was drinking coffee to stay awake. I excused myself and asked for the location of the bathroom. My host, a French-speaker several years my friend, said, “Oh monsieur, do you wish to take a bath?” There was a twinkle in his eye. We both laughed and I asked for the location of the toilet.

    In another case, my company hired a man from Israel. In Israel, his nickname was “doo-doo”. We explained the US slang meaning of “doo-doo”. He changed to David.

    There are many cultures in the world. If someone brings their cultural prejudices into international situations, they will appear arrogant and ignorant and people from other cultures won’t want to deal with them. The students should apologize to Patton for completely missing the point. In order to work with people, you have to try to understand them and you have to respect them and respect and tolerate differences. Want to appear ignorant? Go to Argentina and ask about the Falklands. Go to Japan on August 6th and ask what all the marches are about. Go to Finland and ask someone, “Why don’t you guys speak Russian?”

    1. Right. I recall having to point out to my immigrant wife that pointing with the middle finger while making a fist wasn’t considered polite in the US. Apparently it’s common in some parts of Asia.

  35. I was born in Taiwan and raised in the U.S. What USC did to Prof. Patton was beyond moronic. Those who complained need to be sent back to potty training. They missed the forest from the trees and should get a “F”. The professor was using a clear example of how misunderstandings can occur due to language and cultural differences, an insight worth millions in International Business. Just as the Chinese will not change their thousands of years old language to assuage the sensitivities of certain Americans, neither should USC kick this professor to the curb. If USC’s administration thinks its actions against Professor Patton was smart, than they should start their campaign to banish the word “chink” and “nigger” from the English language.

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