NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — An adjunct professor at Southern Connecticut State University, Eric Triffin, has been suspended with pay while the University investigates his alleged use of a racial slur in class.
Students in Triffin’s public health class say Tuesday he was singing and dancing before class, as he normally does. They say he used a racial slur and at least one student became extremely angry, confronting him, then leaving.
News 8 reached out to Mr. Triffin. He says he respects the investigation and that “discretion is the better part of valor.” He says he will tell his story when the time is appropriate.
Students on campus Thursday say there has been strong reaction to the alleged racial slur.
“It’s an inappropriate word and especially in a professional setting,” Chelsea Eubanks-Perry said. “Everyone on campus doesn’t like what happened because it shouldn’t have happened and it was wrong.”
President of the Black Student Union, Eric Clinton says he’s feeling unsettled and uneasy. Initially he was not calling for Triffin to be terminated, but after he says the professor failed to apologize, Clinton says it’s time he’s fired.
“The truth is, a professor used a racial slur in a professional setting, in a class which should never be acceptable,” Clinton told News 8.
Other students believe a suspension is enough.
“I don’t believe he’s a racist man and I don’t believe he meant any harm,” Eughosa Ugbo said. “People don’t take things like that lightly, it’s black history month. Especially with what’s going on in this day and age, I don’t think it was very appropriate.”
The University took swift action with President Joe Bertolino almost immediately sending the following email to the entire university community:
Dear students, faculty and staff,
Earlier this evening, I received word of the alleged use of a racial slur by a faculty member in a classroom setting today.
I want you to know that I am investigating the matter fully and will take appropriate action as a result of the findings.
Because I believe in transparency and open dialogue, I and my senior leadership team will hold an open conversation with students at 7 p.m. today in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom to discuss how Southern can become a more open and welcoming community. I look forward to continuing our ongoing series of campus dialogues on this and related issues.
As a public institution dedicated to the values of social justice, our university abhors the use of racist or hateful words and actions and we will confront these incidents if and when they occur.
I ask you again to join me in promoting a campus environment based on acceptance and understanding – one in which every member of our community feels valued and is treated with dignity and respect.
Students, including Nickolas Linn say the university is listening and ensuring the community is welcoming and accepting to all.
“The president said he would do something about it,” Linn said. “Letting all of us know this is unacceptable and was letting us know he would definitely make sure things are right again.”
Bertolino also held an open forum for all students Tuesday night, not long after the student came forward with the complaint against professor Triffin.
“The administration is open and receptive to changing the campus,” Clinton added.
“Triffin listened to how we felt and the university listened to how we felt and that should be acknowledged.” Eubanks-Perry said.