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KU is terminating professor who used N-word in class

Andrea Quenette, an assistant professor of communication studies, will be terminated at the end of KU’s spring 2017 semester, the university said.
Andrea Quenette, an assistant professor of communication studies, will be terminated at the end of KU’s spring 2017 semester, the university said. The Associated Press

A University of Kansas communications instructor who used the N-word during a class discussion last fall is being terminated by the university.

Andrea Quenette, an assistant professor of communication studies, will be terminated at the end of KU’s spring 2017 semester, the university said.

Quenette, who has a doctorate from Ohio State University, did not respond to calls placed to her office in KU’s Department of Communication Studies.

A statement from the university referred to the termination as “a personnel matter” and said it “is not related to the claims of discrimination raised to the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access.”

The university declined to comment further.

Still, some faculty members said they believe the N-word comment may have had some impact in the decision to end Quenette’s employment with KU.

Fallout over Quenette began last fall after a class discussion that came one day after a racially charged protest by black students at KU over claims the school lacked equity and inclusion for minority students.

Several students leveled complaints against Quenette. About a dozen graduate students, in an open letter to the university, said Quenette was racially insensitive, defensive and confrontational and should be terminated.

In their open letter, students wrote that Quenette, during class, had made the comment: “As a white woman I just never have seen the racism. … It’s not like I see (N-word) spray-painted on walls.”

Quenette was cleared of the racial discrimination charge after a four-month university investigation into the claims. During that review process, at her own request, Quenette went on paid administrative leave.

It was at a three-year checkpoint in the six-year tenure-seeking process that the university notified Quenette her contract with KU would not be renewed.

The outcome might have been different for Quenette if she had tenure.

In 2013 following the Washington Navy Yard shooting, tenured journalism professor David Guth sent out a controversial tweet — “Blood is on the hands of the NRA. Next time, let it be your sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.” — which drew calls for KU to fire him.

Guth went on leave and returned to the classroom in fall 2014.

The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Quenette received notification about her termination last week. She had been teaching classes on media, communication and terrorism, persuasion and political communication campaigns.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc

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