The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
A reader passed this along, and I believe it is authentic; I forward it because our readers seem interested in the controversy (see also this post) and because it may be usefully read together with the USC administration's recent statements. The Faculty Council is a committee of faculty members within the USC Marshall Business School, and the e-mail was sent on Aug. 30:
Last week some full-time MBA students complained about an example that Prof. Greg Patton used in several sections of his GSBA 542 Communication for Management course, a core class in the full-time MBA program. In his class on Thursday August 20th, Greg was discussing presentation skills. He was providing examples from different cultures on verbal disfluency. In this context, he used a frequently used filler word in Chinese language. Some students thought this Chinese word sounded like a vile racial slur in the English language.
After the final section of the class, Greg received feedback from several students that they were uncomfortable with his example. The students lodged a formal complaint with Marshall. They stated that Greg had malicious intent with this example.
The next day, Greg sent a written apology to all three cores. He also appeared before all students and verbally expressed remorse for the pain he had unintentionally caused.
Marshall administrators worked on creating alternative classes/learning avenues for students who preferred not to continue in Greg's class.
From Friday August 21st to Sunday August 23, there were a number of meetings involving Marshall administrators, a small group of full-time MBA students, and full-time MBA staff. After an internal review process by the dean's office that included an extensive review of Greg's teaching, the dean informed Greg on August 23 that he would continue to teach the class. Greg taught the class on Monday August 24. That day, the dean reversed the original decision to keep Greg in the class. He was replaced by a colleague from his department, starting on Tuesday August 25. In the early evening on August 24, the Dean sent a letter to the full-time MBA students announcing this change.
A formal USC OED [Office of Equity and Diversity] investigation is currently in place.
The faculty council has met with Greg as well as Dean Garrett and Vice Dean Yang to learn more. We have also reviewed a recording of Greg using the example in class.
Attached you will find several documents [not included in the message that I received -EV], including the following:
- The students' complaint message to Marshall administrators
- Dean Garrett's letter to the students
- Greg's letter to the Marshall Graduate Student Association board.
Some people have already posted the video on public sites. You can find them with online searches.
In light of this event, we seek your input about (1) how to find constructive solutions for challenging situations facing faculty and administrators, (2) how should we, as faculty members respond in such situations and (3) how should these complaints be handled by Marshall administration. Each of us is available to meet and provide any additional information that we are aware of. Please complete this survey by Wednesday, September 2. Your responses will be anonymous: [link omitted -EV]