A George Washington University professor has quit teaching a human rights course after outraging students in a classroom discussion in which he described his use of the n-word in a phone call with a black colleague.
Professor Michael Stoil, an associate professor of political science at the University of Washington DC and a former CIA analyst, was removed from his position as the class’ teacher after students filed three reports of racial prejudice against him.
The 72-year-old didn’t repeat the slur in his class, but instead recalled saying the n-word during a call with a black deputy provost, who told him she had a “visceral” reaction to it.
George Washington University has two black vice provosts, and the identity of the woman Stoil worked with has yet to be determined.
In an audio recording of a September classroom discussion, Stoil could be heard telling his class how the school’s vice provost was “appalled” when he used the n-word in a phone call in which they discussed his belief that the word never should be used.
“I used the N-word and she was horrified,” Stoil told his classroom, according to The Hatchet. ‘ She says, ‘Oh my god, I felt that viscerally. It crossed my mind you used the N-word.’ I said, “You don’t listen to hip hop? Don’t you hear street music? They use it all the time.’
“Yes, but they are black,” one student could be heard replying, while others agreed.
“Okay, I’m Eurasian,” Stoil said. “Where do I fit in? Can we use it too?’
“No,” the students replied.
“You’re right, but the point is that I didn’t imagine that using the N-word would make her feel pain just because, by the way, she didn’t know the color of my skin,” Stoil said. ‘It was on the phone. I guess I don’t sound black. Does Barack Obama sound black?’
Professor Michael Stoil, an associate professor of political science at the University of Washington DC and a former CIA analyst, was removed from his position as the class’ teacher after students filed three reports of racial prejudice against him
GW junior Keheirra Wedderburn said her “hands were shaking” during the classroom discussion
Stoil declined to comment on the remarks, saying only that they were misunderstood and that school officials had instructed him not to discuss the situation.
In an email to The Hatchet, he also said he would be leaving GW at the end of this semester, saying the school failed to give him any support amid the controversy.
“The university is no place for a ‘color-blind’ humanist whose efforts to get students to think in terms of universal human rights have been so misinterpreted and received so little support from university officials,” he said in an email.
“Contrary to the opinion of some students, I am fully aware of the toxic reaction to the use of the ‘N-word’ and other racial and gender slurs by all people,” Stoil continued. “I object to the use of the N-word in musical performances and poetry, regardless of the user’s identity, and wish that students, under all circumstances, feel equally offended by its use.”
According to The Hatchet, students were “shocked” by Stoil’s comments, and some even began cutting his subsequent classes.
“My hands were just shaking like I just didn’t know how to react, what to say or do, and I just felt alone,” said GW junior Keheirra Wedderburn. “I shouldn’t have to tell you about racism because I’m going through it.”
Wedderburn, who is black, said Stoil previously made her uncomfortable in class by asking her in front of all her classmates how long it took her to braid her hair.
A senior political science student, Katie Miller, said she was “disgusted” by Stoil’s comments in the lecture and that the class didn’t know how to react after he made them.
“He said that like we all agreed,” she said. “As soon as he said that, you could hear a pin drop in the classroom. Everyone was just totally shocked. Even with the masks on, you could tell from people’s faces that it was just, “What just happened?”
Stoil was ousted from his position as a human rights teacher after he outraged students in a classroom discussion in which he defended his use of the n-word in a phone call to the administration
Wedderburn, who is black, said Stoil previously made her uncomfortable in class by asking her in front of all her classmates how long it took her to braid her hair
One of the students who submitted a bias report, sophomore Samantha Lewis, said she confronted Stoil, but he didn’t seem to understand that people could be offended by his words.
“He had no idea what I was talking about, he had no idea,” Lewis said. ‘He said, ‘What comments?’ And I said, ‘Regarding your phone conversation with the provost.’ And he was like, ‘Oh,’ so I kind of had to explain to him why people felt uncomfortable and offended.”
Lewis said Stoil told her he saw no problem using the n-word and that forbidding him from using it was a violation of his human rights. She added that Stoil told her he would have “definitely” used the bow in class if it had been “a few years ago.”
“No sympathy or self-reflection like, ‘Oh damn, maybe I screwed up, maybe that was a wrong comment for me,'” Lewis said.
The university has not commented on Stoil’s departure or how it has dealt with the prejudice complaints against him.
“GW is committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of our diverse community,” GW spokesman Tom Pierce said in an email to The Hatchet. “We care deeply about the classroom experience of our students and are providing direct support, resources and updates to those affected by this incident.”