San Diego State University suspended from teaching two classes J. Angelo Corlett, professor of philosophy and ethics, for showing slides listing racial epithets used against various races. “Some students are confused about what counts as racism,” Corlett, who is Latino, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. Groups including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Academic Freedom Alliance have criticized the university, saying it has violated Corlett’s free speech rights and academic freedom, while San Diego State’s Associated Students group reportedly said it supports the decision to remove Corlett from the classroom for his “repeated behavior.” A statement from the student group says that Corlett has used a specific anti-Black slur “over 60 times” and criticizes him for using the word “rape” for sexual violence.
Students also allege that Corlett said he “would only be fired if he raped or killed a student,” according to the Union-Tribune; Corlett told the newspaper that he didn’t say he couldn’t be fired but explained how academic freedom gives him the right to use provocative language. During a class where a visiting student challenged him about the slides, he said, he used racial epithets roughly 12 times.
Corlett has been allowed to keep teaching a third class, but the two classes in which he showed the slides were reassigned. “We have had a number of students who have come forward and who’ve complained about their experience in Professor Corlett’s classes,” Luke Wood, the university’s vice president for student affairs and campus diversity, told the Union-Tribune. “This was about actions, not about freedom of expression.”