A white Rutgers law student used the N-word while quoting a legal opinion — igniting backlash and starting a petition demanding a policy on slurs at the New Jersey school, according to a report.
The unnamed first-year student, a middle-aged woman studying law for a second career, uttered the slur while reciting a line from a 1993 legal opinion during a criminal law class’ virtual open hours in October, the New York Times reported.
In response, fellow black first-year law students at Rutgers Law in April passed around a petition condemning the student’s use of the offensive term and called on both their peer and the professor to apologize.
The students also urged the school to form a policy on use of racial epithets, according to The Times.
“At the height of a ‘racial reckoning,’ a responsible adult should know not to use a racial slur regardless of its use in a 1993 opinion,” the petition reads, the Times reported.
“We vehemently condemn the use of the N-word by the student and the acquiescence of its usage.”
Professor Vera Bergelson, who was teaching the class when the N-word was used, told The Times that she didn’t hear the slur when it was said.
“I wish I could go back in time to that office hour and confront it directly,” she told the paper of the Oct. 28 incident.
Bergelson said she only discovered what happened shortly after April 6, when the petition began circulating five months after the incident.
The professor convened a meeting with the class, and apologized, as did the student who used the word, The Times reported.
Meanwhile, Adam Scales, a black Rutgers Law professor, said using the “N-word” as a euphemism clouds the word’s offensiveness and history, according to The Times.
“There is something extremely antiseptic about the term ‘N-word,’” he told the outlet. “There is something that softens the impact.”