Chair of UT’s Africana Studies program addresses faculty member’s use of racially charged acronym

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — UT’s chair of the Africana Studies Program has released a detailed statement explaining the use of a racially charged acronym by a faculty member.

The University of Tennessee College of Arts and Sciences is investigating after a faculty member wrote a racially charged acronym on the whiteboard during an Africana Studies class.

Shayla C. Nunnally, chair of the Africana Studies Department, released this statement on behalf of the program:

“Underneath it is the reference phrase – “Never Ignorant About Getting Goals Accomplished – using the “n-word” acronym, which is the name of a song (and part of the album title) by the renowned rap artist, Tupac (1993),” Nunally said.

“Without context and the acronym alone, this word presents a very painful and derogatory one that is not only uncomfortable, but also hurtful and troubling. But, it is the context of this discussion and this word that begs knowledge-building,” Nunnaly said.

“Our faculty member understands deeply the significance of race and positionality in discussing Africana Studies, but we are willing and have had further discussion about the complexities of the “who, what, when, where, how, and why” people reference the “n-word,” even though to our understanding, this is why our professor wrote it— knowing that speaking it was a power even she should not have, which was a point she made in her lecture,” Nunnally said. “We most sincerely regret and apologize that this action was in poor judgment, given the nuances and hurt that it presents.”

The college said it is talking with students and the faculty member to understand the context and the impact “in order to chart a path forward.”

“Information is still being gathered about this incident, which may precipitate additional actions,” a tweet from the university said on Thursday. “We are sorry for the hurt this has caused our community.

“Our work to create a campus where everyone matters and belongs will not stop, and we are committed to continuous learning.”

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