A top-level faculty member at a California college is under fire after using the unabbreviated n-word in mid-November. She was relating a story from a student who had said they were called the word, but that didn’t matter. Word got out, and now that faculty member has been placed on leave and students, staff, and faculty are demanding her resignation.
At a gender equity meeting on November 14 at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), Vice President of Business Services Lyndsay Maas repeated a story told to her from a student who had been called the n-word. In repeating the story, Mass did not say “n-word” but used the unabbreviated version, according to Cal Coast News.
A “faculty member of color” at the meeting stopped Maas “to address the harm caused by the racial slur,” according to the Santa Barbara Independent. “Maas tried to explain herself, but she did not take the opportunity to listen to the experience of others,” staff members who were present at the meeting wrote to the school’s Board of Trustees.
Admissions staffer Akil Hill heard about the incident, but didn’t witness it himself. He heard of an email addressed to managers, supervisors, and president’s councilmembers that addressed the incident but didn’t condemn Maas, sent from SBCC President Anthony Beebe. The 52 recipients were directed to attend cultural-sensitivity training within 6 months, according to the Independent.
This did not sit well with Hill, who said that not sending the email to everyone on campus amounted to a coverup. He also “was disappointed Beebe did not reach out to black staff, faculty, and students to inform them of the event, much less apologize and gather input to move forward,” the Independent reported.
“You can’t offend a group of people and not apologize to them,” he said.
Maas sent an email to the people who were actually at the gender equity meeting — who actually heard what she saw and had some grounds to be offended — and said she would attend cultural sensitivity training.
“Last week during a campus meeting discussing how to combat racism on campus, I inadvertently used a term that has since been taken out of context, offending some people as a result. I deeply regret that offense, and remain committed to help battle on-campus racism at SBCC,” Maas said in a statement.
Hill said it didn’t matter that Maas is a “good person,” she should suffer consequences for what she said in a small meeting that he did not attend.
“We can’t reduce it down to her being a good or bad person. She made a mistake, and there has to be consequences,” he told the Independent. “You can’t continue coming to work like nothing happened.”
A special meeting was called on November 17, where students held up “Black Lives Matter” signs as if Maas had directly referred to them as the n-word or threatened someone’s life. Students took the time to claim that they had been called the n-word, or spit on, or watched by police.
Maas has since been placed on unpaid administrative leave, according to the Independent. The consequences Hill demanded apparently meant losing her career over the single use of a word when relating a story told to her by someone else.
Gone are the days when someone can be taken aside (or told in front of others) that you can never, under any circumstances, say the unabbreviated n-word if you are white. Not when listening to rap, not when retelling the direct stories of those who have been called the word.
No, now ignorance leads to losing your livelihood.