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Duquesne Univ. Asked To Bring Back Professor Fired For Using N-Word During Class

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A former Duquesne University professor who was fired for using a racial slur during a class is trying to get his job back.

According to a report obtained by KDKA, the Duquesne University Grievance Committee for Faculty is now recommending former professor Dr. Gary Shank have his employment restored after being fired for using the N-word during a lecture last fall.

According to the grievance report, Dr. Shank is claiming he was making a point about the progression of race relations when he said the N-word during an educational psychology class last September while recalling how this and other racial slurs were common and accepted in his youth.

Dr. Shank was terminated by Duquesne in October on several grounds, including failure to respect students, failure to observe the university mission statement and breaking discrimination policies.

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According to the report, he later filed a grievance through a university oversight committee seeking his job back, financial reimbursements and back pay. Shank is alleging wrongful termination, defamation and violation of his academic freedom.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has been working with Dr. Shank and his attorney throughout the investigation, believes he is protected under those freedoms.

"That includes a professor's right to discuss slurs, even offensive racial slurs in class if it's pedagogically relevant," said Alex Morey, a program officer for FIRE.

Following a series of interviews and a hearing, the investigation closed on Jan. 14. The findings concluded that Shank did engage in serious misconduct, did not have his academic freedoms violated and should be sanctioned.

However, investigators determined he should not be terminated because this incident was singular and his use of the racial slur was misguided but not malicious. Dr. Shank and his attorney maintain the former professor should face no disciplinary action.

Duquesne released the following statement to KDKA:

"President Ken Gormley has received the report and will review its recommendations in their entirety before issuing a decision. The president has 15 business days to do so."

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