The University of Southern California has placed a professor on leave after he said a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English while teaching a communications class.
Greg Patton, a professor at the university’s Marshall School of Business, was giving a lecture about the use of “filler words” in speech during a recent online class when he used the word in question, saying, “If you have a lot of ‘ums and errs,’ this is culturally specific, so based on your native language. Like in China, the common word is ‘that, that, that.’ So in China it might be ‘nèi ge, nèi ge, nèi ge.’”
In a statement to Campus Reform, USC said Patton “agreed to take a short term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps.” Another instructor has stepped in to teach the class in the meantime.
“Recently, a USC faculty member during class used a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English. We acknowledge the historical, cultural and harmful impact of racist language,” the university said in a statement.
USC is now “offering supportive measures to any student, faculty, or staff member who requests assistance,” the statement added, saying the school is “committed to building a culture of respect and dignity where all members of our community can feel safe, supported, and can thrive.”
According to a brief bio on the school’s website, Patton is “an expert in communication, interpersonal and leadership effectiveness” who has received “numerous teaching awards, been ranked as one of the top teaching faculty at USC and helped USC Marshall achieve numerous #1 worldwide rankings for Communication and Leadership skill development.”
“Professor Patton has extensive international experience, has trained, coached and mentored thousands of leaders worldwide, and created scores of successful leadership programs,” the bio adds.
Editor’s Note: Additional reporting on the student-led effort to sanction Patton can be found here.