Gary Shank is the Duquesne University professor who was recorded using a racial slur three times during an online lecture. The video was posted on Twitter by a Duquesne student on September 11. Duquesne University is described as “One of the largest, most comprehensive Catholic universities in the U.S.” The school’s campus is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Pittsburg Post-Gazette’s Alexis Johnson was the first to report that Shank had been placed on paid leave pending an investigation. Heavy has reached out to Gary Shank for comment on this story. A Duquesne University spokesperson told Heavy that while on leave, Shank is not teaching and that another professor will be taking over his classes.
In the Video Shank Says That in His Youth, People Referred to Brazil Nuts as ‘N***** Toes’
PLEASE LISTEN !! A Professor at Duquesne University giving permission for students to use the N word in class pic.twitter.com/1nbXPbhsDS
— Marc Jr™ (@_marcjr) September 11, 2020
The student who posted the video uses the handle, @_Marcjr. He wrote in the caption, “PLEASE LISTEN !! A Professor at Duquesne University giving permission for students to use the N-word in class.” In the first video, Shank can be seen asking his students about the worst racial slur. In the second video, Shank uses the slur there times.
In the first instance, Shank uses the word in saying that it is the most offensive racial slur. Shank said that it was not okay to use the word “other than to demonstrate a point.” Shank goes on to say that in his youth, people described Brazil Nuts as “N***** toes.” Later, Shank says that if somebody spent money at “extravagantly,” they were referred to as “n***** rich.” At one point, Shank asks a student if it would be acceptable to use those phrases nowadays. The student replies by saying “absolutely not.”
An email was sent to students by Duquesne University’s school of education Dean Gretchen Generett was shared with Heavy. Generett said that she was contacted directly by students who were in the class. Generett wrote in part, “I want to thank students for using their voices to share the troubling and disturbing language that was used by your professor in class.” Generett added, “To be clear, I believe that there is never a time, pedagogically or otherwise, for a professor to create a hostile learning environment.” The email went on to refer to the incident as a “teachable moment.”
Shank Has Been Teaching at Duquesne Since 1997
According to Shank’s profile on Duquesne University’s website, which has been removed since the original publication of this story, he is a professor in the college’s school of education. Shank graduated with a bachelor of science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1971 and attained his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Indiana University in 1980. Prior to working at Duquesne University, Shank was an associate professor at Northern Illinois University. He joined Duquesne in August 1997. On his Facebook page, Shank refers to Charleston, West Virginia, as his hometown. In multiple posts on his Facebook page, Shank shows himself to be a passionate fan of the rock band Grateful Dead.
On the Same Day as the Shank Video Emerged, a Protest at Duquesne University in Support of the Family of a Black Student Who Was Killed on Campus Was Interrupted by a Donald Trump Supporter
A student and resident of this dorm unfurls a pro-Trump flag. Campus police shortly moved into the area and moved protesters out of the area. The student went back into the building. pic.twitter.com/Yq9YxQFBJi
— Christian Snyder (@csnyderj) September 11, 2020
On the same day as the Shank video, Pittsburgh based reporter Christian Snyder posted multiple videos from Duquesne’s campus showing protests in support of Danielle Brown. She is the mother of Jaylen Brown, a Duquesne student who fell to his death from the school’s Brottier Hall in October 2018.
At the time writing, Danielle Brown has surpassed day 50 of a hunger strike as she seeks answers surrounding her son’s death. In one of Snyder’s videos, a person in a Donald Trump t-shirt unfurls a Donald Trump flag. The person’s flag is quickly covered by supporters of Danielle Brown.