KU continues discrimination investigation into professor who used n-word in class; she was not scheduled to teach spring classes

photo by: Mike Yoder

Some Kansas University students filed a discrimination complaint with KU against assistant professor Andrea M. Quenette, who they accused of using racist language, in November 2015.

Kansas University’s investigation of a professor who said the n-word in class remains ongoing — though regardless of outcome the instructor won’t be teaching next semester.

Andrea Quenette, assistant professor of communication studies, has been on paid administrative leave since Nov. 20, shortly after KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access opened its investigation into racial discrimination complaints against her. Quenette’s IOA case remains open, according to KU spokesman Joe Monaco. He said KU policy calls for the university to complete discrimination complaint investigations within 60 days.

Quenette said she is now working with an attorney. She said an IOA investigator told her that a total of six complaints were filed and that the office aimed to interview all students before the end of the semester.

“After interviewing all of the students they then make a determination as to whether any policies were violated. If so, they will then notify me of the complaints within seven days and then I will be interviewed,” Quenette said.

Quenette, now in her third year as a tenure-track assistant professor, will not have any classes this spring because she was previously scheduled for a research-intensive semester with no teaching obligations, Monaco said. He said that plan was entirely unrelated to Quenette’s administrative leave and that all junior faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are offered one such research-intensive semester during their pre-tenure employment.

This story rocketed into national news quickly after I posted my report to ljworld.com on Nov. 20. (Read the whole story here.)

On Nov. 12, the morning after KU’s heated universitywide town hall forum on race, Quenette used the n-word to illustrate a point during a graduate-level class discussion about race, which also included conversation about retention rates at KU and the concept of systemic racism. Students — in a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #FireAndreaQuenette and in an open letter online — condemned Quenette’s use of the n-word and “active denial” of systemic racism, and demanded that she lose her job.

Quenette has said she did not direct the n-word at or intend to offend anyone and that discussing race issues was within the purview of her class.

• Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.