The Chronicle’s View: U Should Remove TA from Class

By and

Inappropriate classroom comments necessitate that Amadou Niang leave his class.

A teaching assistant for Professor Karen Johnson’s African-American Experience class, Niang has landed himself in a bit of hot water recently.

In between student presentations, Niang asked how many students belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then he said that their church is guilty of institutional racism and insinuated that the students are guilty of racism by association. He then forbade them from defending their position or arguing against his offensive attack.

To make Mormonism a forbidden classroom topic would be shortsighted. But forbidding half the class from debating in an in-class debate on Mormonism doesn’t serve the students or their education.

Regardless of whether or not Niang’s attack was offensive or insensitive, he violated U policy by demanding students identify themselves based on their religious affiliation. Instructors are also prohibited from asking students their sexual preference, race or disability status.

The U installed the rule to protect students from teachers who?regardless of their intentions?could create a hostile atmosphere in the classroom, an atmosphere in which learning is impossible.

At least some students believe Niang created that atmosphere in Johnson’s class.

The remaining classes will ultimately be uncomfortable for Johnson, her students and Niang if the situation remains the same. Some students legitimately wonder if their grades will be affected since they have spoken out, others worry if Niang holds a grudge against Mormons. And from Niang’s point of view, his authority has not only been challenged but at least some portion of the students he helps educate want to see him fired.

If U officials want to restore a healthy classroom atmosphere so that learning can occur?and prove they won’t tolerate intolerance?they need to suspend Niang.