A Georgetown University law professor has sparked outrage after he was caught on video referring to one of his Asian students as "Mr. Chinaman" during a class last week.
In the clip, Professor Franz Werro, in an attempt to initiate a discussion, asked an Asian student, What about you, Mr. Chinaman?"
"Sorry to not catch your name," he said as he sat at his desk during a lecture on international contracts and sales law on Feb. 10. "Maybe you can remind me of your name."
A clip of the incident was posted to Twitter with the caption: "Pro. Werro of @GeorgetownLaw #GeorgetownLaw has a very racist way of conducting his law school 'cold call.'"
The Twitter user also noted in the thread, "To answer people's questions: 1) No, the student's last name was not Chinaman. 2) 'Chinaman' is a racial slur that relates back to the era of Chinese Slavery in America."
Reactions on Social Media
The video has since gone viral with more than 107K views and dozens of comments from users expressing their shock over the educator's use of racial language.
"I am not often left speechless but this has left me speechless," a Twitter user wrote.
"'Chinaman' is a racial slur. It's not funny. @GeorgetownLaw what are you going to do about this," commented another.
The Asia Pacific American Law Association at Georgetown has also condemned the incident and demanded alternative class options for Asian students in Professor Werro's class.
Werro Issues Apology
In the wake of the backlash, Werro issued a public apology via a statement obtained by news website Above the Law.
"I apologize that I used an offensive term in class yesterday. The statement I made was just after the break in the class, during which I had enthusiastically noted the great diversity of languages spoken by members of the class," Werro said.
"As a non-native English speaker myself, I did not appreciate that it was a derogatory term, as I now understand it is. I am very sorry I used it. I am committed to educating myself because I want all students to feel welcome in my classroom."
According to the Georgetown Law website, Werro specializes in private law. He had three stints as Georgetown Law's academic co-director and has taught at a number of colleges and universities in the U.S. and Europe.
Georgetown Law Dean Releases Statement
On Feb. 11, Georgetown law's dean, Bill Treanor, also released a statement addressing the controversy.
"I was made aware of an incident yesterday involving a professor using a derogatory term in the classroom that is demeaning and hurtful. This term is a slur with a centuries-long history of harm to Asian people," Treanor said. He expanded on his commitment to work with Asian-based organizations at the law school. He also explained that Werro—without mentioning him by name—apologized for his mistake and that he and other faculty members would participate in cultural and diversity conversations and workshops.
"As a community of students, staff, and faculty we must take a serious look at our culture, structure, systems, and processes to ensure that we are a community that fosters respect, equity, and justice. We have significant work ahead of us to create a community in which students can learn in an environment that is free from bias, where they are able to foster positive connections with others, and where everyone feels supported and appreciated for their contributions," Treanor continued in his statement.