Education

Students, alumnae want Meredith professor fired over racial slur

Posted February 23, 2021 4:23 p.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2021 7:44 p.m. EST

— A tenured professor at Meredith College is under investigation by the school and under fire from students who say she used a racial slur in class last fall.

Meredith students and alumnae have called for Veronique Machelidon, the head of the Department of World Languages and Culture, to be fired.

"Meredith students cannot condone a professor using hate speech in what should be a safe academic space," Sarah Marshall, a 2016 graduate, said during a virtual news conference on Tuesday.

Students complained that Machelidon used a racial slur several times in French classes on Nov. 18, even after students asked her to stop.

"In the next class, she justified her actions by saying she wasn’t from America and a lot of people don’t know [the slur]," Marshall said, quoting from student statements.

Machelidon, who is from Belgium, didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

"We can’t erase history. It’s there. It’s in the textbooks. But we don’t have to speak it out loud. We don’t have to trigger people," said Mia Angelo, president of South Carolina-based activist group The Peaceful Protest.

"This should not be an environment that our institutions of learning, that they’re holding up this standard of white supremacy in the classroom," Raleigh lawyer Yolanda Taylor said.

Students brought the incident to the attention of Dean Sarah Roth, Marshall said, but the dean had the students work out their differences with Machelidon on their own.

"Afterwards, [Machelidon] sent an apology email, but the damage had already been done," Marshall said.

Roth didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Meredith officials said President Jo Allen and other top-level administrators learned of the incident only two weeks ago and are now looking into it.

"As we continue to investigate what happened, we acknowledge that this incident is hurtful for our students and others in our community. We are clarifying the processes for reporting to leadership to ensure our students feel heard, safe, and supported," officials said in a statement.

"We regret the pain this incident has caused our community and are addressing the situation," the statement continued. "Meredith is committed to fostering a diverse, inclusive and respectful community, as evidenced in part by our college-wide anti-racism initiative launched in the summer of 2020."

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