University of Oklahoma Journalism Professor Allegedly Compares ‘OK, Boomer’ To The ‘N-Word’


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A University of Oklahoma journalism professor apologized for using a racial slur in class Tuesday after he compared “OK Boomer” to the “N-word.”

Peter Gade, the director of graduate studies at the university’s journalism school, allegedly used the racial slur during a “Journalism, Ethics and Democracy” class Tuesday morning, according to the OU Daily, the university’s student newspaper. Gade was discussing changes in journalism and social media, students in the class told the newspaper, when he called on a student in the class who suggested that journalists have to adapt to younger generations’ habits as they change.

Gade responded that the student’s suggestion was the equivalent of saying “OK, boomer” to him, the viral internet meme that has been criticized as “ageist” against older people. He followed up that comment by adding that “calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a (n-word),” according to the Daily’s assistant culture editor, Molly Kruse, who is a student in the class.

Kruse told Gade that he shouldn’t use that word, and he responded by allegedly trying to defend it and then changed the subject, the Daily reported. Multiple students left the class, and those that remained said that he apologized for offending anyone. Gade emailed his students following the incident, saying “I made an inexcusable mistake this morning in class with my choice of a word.”

“I was wrong. I am sorry. I realize the word is hurtful and infuses the racial divisions of our country, past and present. Use of this word is inappropriate in any — especially educational — settings,” he added.

The professor who used a racial slur in class apologized to students in an email Tuesday evening:

— OU Daily (@OUDaily) February 12, 2020

“I’m not sure that (type of language) does (have a place in the classroom),” Ed Kelley, the dean of the journalism school said, according to the Daily. “Perhaps it did once upon a time. Perhaps he was using it as an educational tool. We have no record at all of Dr. Gade, a distinguished professor who’s been on the faculty here for more than 20 years, of him ever using this term, much less any kind of other racially inflamed language.”

Kelley first met with students alongside the associate dean David Craig in order to get testimony of the incident. Kelley said that once more perspectives are collected, the deans will approach Gade with student reactions and corrective action. (Related: Journalists ‘Do A Good Job’ Balancing Gun Coverage, Johns Hopkins Professor Says)

We wanted to hear from (the students) exactly, not only what was said, but in the context what was said. And then just importantly, their reaction to what was said,” Kelley said. “We also are going to reach out today and try to talk to the African American students who are in the class … We want to get their perspective as well, if they want to share with us, and they don’t have to.”

Miles Francisco, a student and co-director of the Black Emergency Response Team, said it was not the first time a professor at the university had used the slur and justified it for “educational reasons.” The Black Emergency Response Team is a student organization with the stated mission of “confronting racism on campus,” according to the New York Times. The group said on Twitter that it expects “full action to be taken against the professor and college.”

We do not condone or accept this behavior from any member of the OU community regardless of occupation or student status. This will not be tolerated or accepted and we expect full action be taken against the professor and college.(1/2)

— BERT (@BERT_OU) February 11, 2020

“We plan to be having discussions on what we want as a black community, and what do we want going forward.”

OU’s Black Emergency Response Team is holding a town hall meeting tonight for black students after a professor’s use of a racial slur yesterday:

— OU Daily (@OUDaily) February 12, 2020

University officials affirmed that the First Amendment protected Gade from disciplinary action, and Interim OU President Joseph Harroz added that while they were protected, they were “fundamentally offensive and wrong,” the Daily reports.  

Deans from the journalism unit of the university will be attending Gade’s class on Thursday, according to Kruse’s statements to the New York Times.

The OU Daily and Peter Gade did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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