Columbia declines to punish professor for using N-word in ‘8 Mile’ quote

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Columbia University will not discipline a professor who angered students by using the N-word while quoting a scene from the film “8 Mile,” according to the school’s newspaper.

The Columbia Spectator reported that tenured teacher Jonathan Rieder will not face punishment after students filed a Title IX complaint in the wake of the Oct. 28 class.

Rieder, who is white, used the term during a “Culture in America” lecture and claimed he thought it was permissible because he pronounced it with an “a” at the end of the slur, instead of an “er.”

“In retrospect, it’s fair to say that I didn’t need to quote the word,” he wrote in an email to students after the class, according to student news site Bwog. “I regret any pain or offense caused by my quoting, whether one student or the whole class felt pain or offense. You should know that in the remaining weeks of the course, no material will call for saying the word.”

The Barnard Office of Nondiscrimination and Title IX met with the complainants to field their objections but ultimately opted not to punish Rieder, the outlet reported.

Rieder reportedly said the N-word while quoting a line form the movie "8 Mile."
Rieder reportedly said the N-word while quoting a line form the movie “8 Mile.”

Barnard College is affiliated with Columbia but enjoys legal and financial autonomy.

“They determined that the actions described did not meet the threshold for discriminatory harassment and that there was no basis for further investigation,” a school spokesperson told the Spectator.

Unidentified students told the outlet that they were frustrated by the decision and felt that Rieder’s tenured position afforded him too much protection.

“Those are the benefits of being tenured,” one student said. “You’re allowed to say whatever you want, and you’re allowed to say things that people don’t like.”

As part of a resolution with the students, the administration will allow them to not attend class and be graded by an outside party to avoid potential retaliation for their actions, according to the Spectator.

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