News & Politics

Connecticut Professor Latest Victim of ‘Microaggression’ Claim

Hundreds of people demonstrate against racism in Times Square on Martin Luther King (MLK) Day in New York, NY, on January 15, 2018. (Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

An adjunct professor at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), pending the school’s investigation into his case, may soon be the latest victim of the campus “microaggression” craze.

Eric Triffin has since 1986 been an adjunct at SCSU, where he’s taught dozens of public health classes. He’s known for his upbeat personality, and often begins class by asking a student to pick and play a song. Oftentimes, Triffin joins in and sings along, too.

This hasn’t been a problem for years. But last week, one student played a rap song allegedly featuring the line “I’m a happy n——.” Triffin — as usual — had been singing along.

Immediately, one black student complained — and just as quickly, Triffin apologized.

“I immediately apologized in the moment when it happened,” Triffin told PJ Media. But that wasn’t enough. The Black Student Union was told about the incident, and within hours, it released a video statement calling for the administration to take action against Triffin.

“Students of color should not be subjected to faculty and staff using racial slurs during the process of their education,” said Eric Clinton, president of the Black Student Union.

“To the administration, please do not excuse the actions taken by professor Eric Triffin.”

In an interview with PJ Media, Clinton argued that — regardless of Triffin’s intentions — there is no “positive” way a racial slur could be used, especially since Triffin is white.

“We are asking for justice in the case of how an administration handles a person who drops a racial slur in class and makes students feel unsafe,” said Clinton.

When asked if “justice” requires Clinton to lose his job, the student declined to answer.

SCSU President Joe Bertolino emailed students and faculty a day later to note he was “investigating the matter fully and will take appropriate action as a result of the findings.”

SCSU placed Triffin on suspension. He is barred from entering class.

In an interview with PJ Media, the longtime professor expressed a hint of confusion at what had happened. The song the student chose seemed “positive and celebratory,” and Triffin noted that he otherwise “had never and would never use that word myself, much less abusively.”

Further — as the father of a biracial child — Triffin said he is acutely aware of racism, and reiterated that he had “no ill intent” towards anyone.

“I just thought it was a positive song and that the connotation … was celebratory,” said Triffin. “And I was just singing along … and in the moment thought of it relating to me and my biracial family.”

Because of that, Triffin’s status at SCSU remains unclear. Despite having taught at SCSU for more than 30 years, Triffin is an adjunct, and has no long-term contract with the school. Like many other adjuncts, he has no due process rights while being investigated.

Since 1986, Triffin says he’s taught at least 130 public health classes at SCSU without issue. “I just miss my students,” Triffin added.

PJ Media reached out to SCSU for comment, and a media officer forwarded the following institutional statement. “As a public institution dedicated to the values of social justice, our university abhors the use of racist or hateful words and actions and we will confront these incidents if and when they occur.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen