University of California, Los Angeles: Lecturer Referred to Administration After Reading Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter Containing Racial Slur

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of California, Los Angeles

During a class lecture, UCLA professor Lt. Col. W. Ajax Peris read from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which King confronted white pastors with examples of racist abuse and bigoted rhetoric, including use of a racial slur. After a student complained on Twitter that Peris, who is white, had uttered the slur when reading from King’s letter, his college referred the matter to UCLA investigators for review. Peris’ department chair then sent a letter to faculty members faulting Peris for reading the word over students’ objections, and criticized him for exhibiting a documentary that included graphic images and descriptions of lynching, as well as narration that, the chair wrote, “quoted the n-word in explaining the history of lynching.” The university’s actions prompted an investigation from the Department of Education and a letter from FIRE calling for the end to any investigation into Peris.