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Update from Dean Bobinski

Dear Students:  

Last week, I told you about a breach of our mission and values involving a professor’s use of the “N-word” during a class. The professor involved has apologized to his class. I am writing to provide transparency about the first specific steps underway to address the incident and to foster classroom inclusivity, to notify you of additional sources of support, and to invite your input about future initiatives.    

As we have seen this past week, derogatory language can have a deep impact on students in the classroom as well as on faculty, students, and staff across our community. The University is committed to establishing an inclusive learning environment that respects the diversity of perspectives, experiences, and needs that students bring to the classroom. As a major research university dedicated to the production and dissemination of knowledge, Emory protects academic freedom and free expression, whether in research or in the classroom. The University does not ban the use of particular words or the expression of controversial ideas. However, a faculty member’s use of racially-charged, derogatory language—such as the explicit “N-word”—with students, without a clear pedagogical objective, is highly inappropriate and is not protected.   

Given these principles, the professor involved will no longer teach this semester. We have notified students enrolled in two classes affected by this change and have offered these students support for pursuing their academic goals. We have added a new section of one class this term, offered on the same day and time. We have created a new section of the second class that will be taught in the spring. We will support students affected by the cancellations in moving into other classes being taught this fall and offered priority registration for the spring semester class.   

We have secured additional resources for students that will be available this week and noted other campus support systems at the bottom of this message.   

  • Tomorrow, Monday, August 23, 1 p.m. – 2 p.m., in room 1E, advocacy staff from the Emory Office of Respect will be available to share more about support around interpersonal violence and bias support on campus. There will be an opportunity to schedule individual and small group appointments following this session. 
  • On Wednesday, August 25, between 2 p.m. – 4 p.m., Dr. Romero Huffstead, of Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), will offer free confidential Let’s Talk consultations. These sessions are held weekly specifically for law students, and you can schedule your consultation here. Once scheduled, students will receive a link for a HIPAA-compliant video appointment. When scheduling, students have the option to request phone consultation instead.  

Our faculty as a whole must redouble efforts to address our responsibilities to our students. I have received recommendations over the past few days from the Faculty Advisory Committee, and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, for fostering inclusive classroom environments in which our students can pursue intellectually challenging, rigorous, and transformative educational opportunities. Our faculty will meet in the coming weeks to consider these initiatives and to develop others, including focused training. I will provide updates to the community about our plans.    

I met with some student leaders this past week and many students have approached our faculty and staff to share their responses to this incident and their hopes for the community. We are planning opportunities for students to provide feedback and suggestions through in person or Zoom meetings. Please provide your comments regarding format and content of these sessions to Professor Derrick Howard using this link.   

There is no doubt this is a challenging time for the Emory Law community and we are understandably saddened and frustrated by the recurrence of this issue. I have also heard from those who hope to harness our passion and commitment for addressing racism and inequality into positive, sustained involvement in pro-bono activities, allyship, activism, clinics, and policy work. We will soon provide information about some of these opportunities to our community. 

I appreciate the many ways in which our community has come together in response to this incident. We are committed to the work required to address this breach of our community values and will provide regular updates and opportunities for further conversation and engagement.  


Dean Bobinski