Re-instate USC Marshall Professor Greg Patton

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USC Professor Greg Patton was recently placed on leave after students complained that his pronunciation of a Chinese word affected their mental health. (Source:

In a discussion on filler words, the professor of Business Communications used the Mandarin Chinese word for "that" as an example that Chinese speakers frequently over-use. "That" or 那个” is pronounced as “nà ge” or “nèi ge”, which has a phonetic similarity to a racial slur used to describe African Americans. It is clear from this recording of the class that the word was used as a Chinese word and not as a racial slur: (Disclaimer: I am not the owner of this video or this youtube channel). 

The context of this discussion was clearly an academic lecture on communication and Professor Greg Patton was describing a universal mistake commonly made in communication. For him to be censored simply because a Chinese word sounds like an English pejorative term is a mistake and is not appropriate, especially given the educational setting. It also dismisses the fact that Chinese is a real language and has its own pronunciations that have no relation to English.

It is not credible that Greg Patton purposefully mispronounced this term as a form of racial discrimination. His faculty page and CV describes him as a professor in China and a faculty member of the US-China Institute, among other things: If anyone is qualified to make this comment, it is likely him. 

Our schools and campuses need to be places where free speech and open conversation are respected. While bias and discrimination have no place in our universities, mindless censorship is equally harmful.

We demand that Greg Patton be re-instated as Professor of Business Communications at USC Marshall and taken off leave.


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