Campus Free Speech

USC Marshall Business School Faculty Council E-Mail to Colleagues About the Greg Patton Matter

|

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:

Dear Colleagues:

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]

Best,

Faculty Council

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: September 10, 1949

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Your responses will be anonymous”. And those responses totally won’t be used to get you fired from your job and blacklisted.

  2. 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:

    1: Trick question. The only challenge facing faculty and administrators is having the balls to tell these emotionally exhausted students to grow the fuck up or get the fuck out, no refunds available.
    2: See #1.
    3. See #1, or #2 if that is too direct.

  3. Let’s suppose that an administration has established a rule prohibiting the enunciation of the n-word in class for any reason. Without debating the propriety of that rule, if an instructor says the Chinese sound-alike word in class as a protest against this rule (I have no reason to believe that this describes Prof. Patton’s case), his intent being to actually say the prohibited word under what he believes is a heretofore undiscovered exception, should he be treated the same way as a person is treated who says the n-word when quoting a legal opinion? In other words, is there a substantive difference between the two claimed exceptions?

  4. Remember when that woman lost her dog named “Negro” and Twitter went nuts? I thought that could only happen on Twitter.

  5. “In light of this event, we seek your input about (1) how to find constructive solutions for challenging situations facing faculty and administrators,”

    This event wasn’t a challenging situation.

    1. Given the response, Patton not teaching because of idiocy, supported by a dean, I say it was challenging. But not in the manner they think.

      1. Just because the administration is challenged doesn’t mean that the situation was challenged.

        1. *challenging.

    2. Ritual behavior is challenging when that behavior is clearly wrong and unjust. The dean overcame that challenge and completed the ritual.

  6. One wonders how the students knew Patton was acting out of malice. The mind-reading , revisionism, and deconstructionist habits to which academe and grievance culture seem permanently tied, of course. Did any administration member not think perhaps the lesson was not malicious, and work from a rational neutral basis? This would have been preferable to including the MBAs in the decision-making process -which sounds rather similar to a title ix hearing.

    Patton certainly proved what disfluency on top of ignorant attitudes and stupidity can accomplish on the part of the students in his classes and the administration. Also, are there any non-vile racial slurs, or is this stupid affectation as ridiculous as it seems?

    1. The phraseology “vile racial slur” is to be used when resolving the actual dispute is not enough, but rather, when you resolving the issue must satisfy some third party. For example, an associate lawyer whose draft of a brief has simply used the word “denied” will almost certainly be subject to a mark-up by a partner to read “unequivocally denied” or “adamantly denied” or “with God as my witness I will never go hungry again — denied” If the partner should miss this, the client will almost certainly include such a mark-up. It adds nothing substantively, but it is a change that must be made nonetheless.

  7. Vice Dean Yang appears to be a native Chinese. Her BS is from a University in China.

  8. Hear a benign word, feel pain. There’s a lot of this pain going around, lately. This lends to my conviction that being offended is an emerging currency that can be leveraged.

  9. All of us who were students remember that students often behave stupidly. Administrators and faculty need to be reminded that students are best served when students are told that they are behaving stupidly, and lazy responses like apologies actually harm students.

    1. These aren’t random “students”, these are full-time MBA program members. The average age of the incoming 2020 MBA class at USC is 29 years old. They all have 4-year degrees, and they average 5 years’ work experience. They are supposed to be actual responsible adults.

      So the proper response wouldn’t be telling them they were behaving stupidly; it would be dropping them for proving they were too immature to benefit from a top 20 MBA program.

      1. I fear for the future of the republic…

  10. When will Middle America rise up and say NO MAS!

    It’s gonna happen….

    1. What do you have against Catholics?

    2. After five, six, seven decades of American progress, you figure the clingers are in any position to bring back school prayer, criminalized abortion, creationism in science classrooms, gay-bashing, and the rest of the social conservative platform?

      You figure the stale conservative bigots are going to gather their strength and make Confederate monuments to traitors, losers, and bigots fashionable again?

      Are you predicting that Republicans, conservatives, the Heritage Foundation, and the Federalist Society are ready to reverse the tide of the culture war, and that America will become more white, religious, rural, backward, and bigoted — rather than less?

      The American mainstream is now liberal-libertarian.

  11. Here’s a suggestion: tell your young adult students to grow up.

  12. I hope the Office of Equity’s investigation includes the possibility of investigating wrongful termination.

  13. re: “how should we, as faculty members respond in such situations”

    1. Stop apologizing.
    2. Immediately tell your students to grow up and act like adults. Lots of things sound like bad words. The rest of the world is not responsible for your misperceptions and bigotry.

    1. 3. There are no bad words. Take your council behind the building. Arrange yourself in a circle. Each person in turn, turns to the right, slaps the bejeebers out of that person, and says, “Grow up! Start acting like an adult!” Go around the circle as many times as necessary. Apparently, people with four-year-degrees and an average age of 29 years aspire to behave stupidly. The council, theoretically has some responsibility to manage teaching here yet behaves worse than those students and fails to recognize it.

  14. There is a song called WAP that appears to be popular and widely celebrated by the media. It uses a word that not merely sounds like the “vile racial slur” in question, but that *is* that very slur “nigga.” (Do a search–if you dare–for “WAP lyrics.”) If there is mass outrage against the UCLA professor for using a Chinese word that sounds like this word, why is there no mass outrage against the singer and the studio for using the word itself?

    1. WAP is a top hit, constantly suggested by Amazon Music on my home page.

  15. His mistake was to apologize. Never apologize to those people because once you do your fate is sealed. Educate them tell them they are foolish. Tell them their desires would deprive their fellow students of an education that encompasses the most commonly spoken language in the world and the second most important language in business.

  16. CNN has finally published an article on The Patton controversy, labeling it an “international academic controversy.”

    I learned something new from the article; no individual signed the letter from the students to the dean. Rather, it was signed, “Black MBA candidates c/o 2022.” CNN add that it “obtained a copy of the letter, but could not find an official USC group by that name or reach the letter-writers for comment.” This is cowardice in the first degree.

    Other excerpts: “The video of the class has since been circulated widely online, even spreading on Chinese social media, with Chinese viewers defending Patton’s use of the phrase and expressing confusion about why it ​was viewed as problematic.”
    “The incident sparked widespread online controversy after making news headlines, with many arguing that Patton was being unfairly punished for essentially saying the word “um” in a different language.”
    “Some pointed out that labeling nei ge or its pronunciation as offensive, as the USC ​administration seemed to do, following the letter, only makes sense within an Anglophone bubble — that doing so portrays the Chinese language as subject to English rules rather than independent and possessing its own contexts.”
    “The Black China Caucus, an American organization that describes itself as “amplifying Black voices in the China space,” also defended Patton on Twitter.
    “The BCC is shocked by how USC mishandled this situation,” the organization posted. “Not only would a quick Mandarin lesson reveal that “nèi ge” is a common pronoun, but USC’s reaction cheapens and degrades substantive conversations surrounding real (diversity, equity and inclusion) challenges on college campuses!'”
    “The controversy has even made waves on social media across Asia; many in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China responded with disbelief, sympathy for Patton, and a fair bit of ridicule.”

    1. no individual signed the letter from the students to the dean. Rather, it was signed, “Black MBA candidates c/o 2022.” CNN add that it “obtained a copy of the letter, but could not find an official USC group by that name or reach the letter-writers for comment.” This is cowardice in the first degree.

      These people are crybullies. And bullies are cowards.

    2. No individuals put their name to the letter? Wow. This makes the USC admin appear even MORE craven, something I did not think was possible. Thank you for pointing this out.

  17. One wonders whether the initial letter was a hoax that the USC administration fell for.

  18. Here’s a video you might like on this topic, by an outstanding amateur journalist on china matters. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ9PBQ7r1ls

  19. Feelings are now paramount and cannot be challenged with facts. University classes are now therapy. There is no way to deal with thIs except to denounce it for the nonsense it is. In fact, it is an example of emotional blackmail, a common abusive technique. “If you say that, it will harm me and you don’t want to harm me, do you?”

    Please

  20. Does anyone doubt this madness will not lead to civil war?

  21. 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 sound, then it should campaign to banish the use of the words “chink” and “nigger” from the English language.

  22. 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 were sound, then it should campaign to banish the use of the words “chink” and “nigger” from the English language.

Please to post comments