Emory University School of Law: Law Professor Suspended, Faces Termination for Use of Racial Epithet In Class and Conversation with Student

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Emory University

During an August 2018 torts class, Professor Paul Zwier named a racial slur when discussing the first of two cases involving racial discrimination. After student complaints, Zwier was barred from teaching first-year law classes for two years. When a black student approached Zwier during office hours to discuss the controversy, Zwier told an anecdote in which a white racist had called Zwier a “nigger-lover” because of Zwier’s views on race. After another complaint, Zwier was indefinitely suspended. The law school’s then-interim dean recommended his termination after Zwier sought a hearing, arguing that the disruption and harm to Emory’s reputation from Zwier’s speech rendered him “incompetent.” FIRE wrote to Emory University, as did the American Association of University Professors, which sent two letters raising due process and academic freedom concerns. Emory ultimately reinstated the professor, who subsequently filed a lawsuit against the university.