An adjunct professor at St. John’s University has allegedly been fired for reading a passage from Mark Twain’s anti-slavery novel “Pudd’nhead Wilson” during a class on satirical literature, The New York Post reported.
Hannah Berliner Fischthal, an adjunct at St. Johns for 20 years, used the word once during a remote class on February 10 after teaching her students the word’s history and context, and said she hoped the usage of the word would not offend anyone in the class, the Post reported.
“Mark Twain was one of the first American writers to use actual dialect. His use of the ‘N-word’ is used only in dialogues as it could have actually been spoken in the south before the Civil War, when the story takes place,” Fischthal said, referring to the book.
“It satirizes the entire evil institution of slavery,” she added in a statement after her firing, according to the Post.
— New York Post (@nypost) May 15, 2021
After the use of the N-word, one student reportedly left the online class and promptly emailed the college administration describing the “emotional distress” the use of the word caused. (RELATED: College Discourages 9/11 Memorial Citing Muslims’ Feelings)
Most students in the class expressed their support for Fischthal, explaining the term was used in context of the reading rather than in a racist manner. The professor was suspended in March, then notified of her firing in late April.
Brian Browne, a spokesman for the university, told the Post, “if your assertion is that she was fired for reading aloud from a Mark Twain novel, that is incorrect.” When pressed to clarify, Brown refused, simply saying the university doesn’t comment on personal matters, the Post said.
Earlier this year, another adjunct professor at the university was fired after a student complained the instructor asked the students to justify slavery during a lesson on “15th and 16th century globalization” in the context of the time period being taught.