Race row erupts at Rutgers law school after white student uses the N-word while quoting legal case

Race row erupts at Rutgers law school after white student uses the N-word while quoting a 1993 legal case: Classmates clash with prominent professors over call for total ban on the word

  • The first year student – a woman who has not been named – had used the slur during Professor Vera Bergelson’s virtual office hours in October last year
  • In discussing a case she had repeated a quote from a defendant which was used in an opinion written by former State Supreme Court judge, Alan B. Handler 
  • The student said: ‘He said, um — and I’ll use a racial word, but it’s a quote. He says, “I’m going to go to Trenton and come back with my [N-word]s”‘
  • That sparked a fierce response from her classmates at the New Jersey law school with a petition calling on the mature student and Bergelson to apologize  
  • A faculty meeting Friday also discussed barring the word’s use in class 
  • Others at the school, including former New Jersey attorney general John Farmer Jr,, have signed a statement in support of Bergelson and the student 

A race row has erupted at Rutgers Law School after a white law student used the N-word while quoting a 1993 legal case.   

The first year student – a woman who has not been named – had used the slur during Professor Vera Bergelson’s virtual office hours in October last year. 

In discussing a case she had repeated a quote from a defendant which was then used in an opinion written by former State Supreme Court judge, Alan B. Handler. 

The student said: ‘He said, um — and I’ll use a racial word, but it’s a quote. He says, “I’m going to go to Trenton and come back with my [N-word]s”.’

That sparked a fierce response from her classmates at the New Jersey law school with a petition calling on the mature student and Professor Bergelson to apologize. 

The petition reads: ‘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.

‘We vehemently condemn the use of the N-word by the student and the acquiescence of its usage.’ 

A faculty meeting Friday also discussed barring the word’s use in class, The New York Times reports. 

Others at the school, including former New Jersey attorney general John Farmer Jr and ex state public advocate Ronald K. Chen, have signed a statement in support of Bergelson and the student. 

A race row has erupted at Rutgers Law School, pictured, after a white law student used the N-word while quoting a 1993 legal case during a class last October 

Professor David Lopez said: ‘I share the views of several of our faculty members who understand and express to their students that this language is hateful and can be triggering, even in the context of a case, and ask that it not be used.’

But Professor Gary L. Francione has called a ban ‘problematic’ and ‘implicating matters of academic freedom and free speech’.

He said: ‘Although we all deplore the use of racist epithets, the idea that a faculty member or law student cannot quote a published court decision that itself quotes a racial or other otherwise objectionable word as part of the record of the case is problematic and implicates matters of academic freedom and free speech.’

Professor Dennis M. Patterson added: ‘I don’t think the Law School should have rules that are stricter than the Constitution of the United States.’ 

Adam Scales, a black professor at Rutgers Law, said: ‘There is something extremely antiseptic about the term ‘N-word’. There is something that softens the impact.’

The first year student - a woman who has not been named - had used the slur during Professor Vera Bergelson's, pictured, virtual office hours in October last year

The first year student – a woman who has not been named – had used the slur during Professor Vera Bergelson’s, pictured, virtual office hours in October last year

He has signed the statement of support of Bergelson. 

Professor Bergelson, 59, has said she did not her the slur being used during the class last October. 

She said she was only made aware of the concerns raised months after the incident when the petition was shared. 

The student is said to have spoken with classmates at the time of the incident after they raised concerns. 

One of the students in the class then alerted others to a recording of the session and Professor Lopez was told of student concerns. 

After the petition surfaced last month Bergelson held a meeting, apologizing for the incident. 

She told The New York Times:  ‘I wish I could go back in time to that office hour and confront it directly. I would never use the words in class.’ 

The student’s attorney, Samantha Harris, said: ‘When you’re an attorney, you hear all kinds of horrible things. You represent people who have said horrible things, who have done horrible things. 

‘You can’t guarantee a world free of offensive language.’ 

DailyMail.com has contacted Harris and Rutgers for comment.

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