Emory students at the Unite Rally held on Aug. 29 at the Emory College of Law building. Photo by Greg Land/ALM Emory students at the “Unity Rally” held on Aug. 29 at the Emory College of Law building. (Photo: Greg Land/ALM)

The Emory law professor whose in-class use of a racial slur last summer spurred a campus rally was placed on leave pending an investigation after he allegedly used the term again last week.

An online petition calling for the ouster of professor Paul Zwier in response to the latest incident accuses him of using the N-word in a one-on-one conversation with a black student on Oct. 31.

When asked why he used it, the petition quotes Zwier as saying the word was used “in a private conversation between two people, as we talk about what our experiences are, I did not feel like there was the same kind of harm that was to be caused, or the ability to be misunderstood.”

A statement issued by Emory Law Interim Dean James Hughes Jr. said Zwier “has been placed on administrative leave following reports that he recently repeated the same racial slur that he used in a classroom lecture earlier this semester.”

Zwier did not respond to a request for comment, but in an email to “The Emory Wheel,” which first reported on the incident, he said he had “been advised by counsel not to submit to any interviews during the pendency of the investigation.”

In response to a request for information about the incident and investigation, an Emory spokeswoman only provided Hughes’ statement.

Emory law professor Paul Zwier/courtesy photo Emory law professor Paul Zwier (Courtesy photo)

Zwier sparked a firestorm in August when, in addressing a first-year torts class, he used the slur when discussing a 1967 case involving a black man who was denied service at a Texas restaurant. Zwier had said he speculated that the manager used a racial slur.

Zwier issued two written apologies, but the outcry led to a two-year bar on him teaching any course in which students are unable to choose another professor, and requirements that he undergo sensitivity and unconscious bias training, engage in sensitivity dialogues and revise his teaching manuals to reflect ways to address sensitive topics.

It also led to a “Unity Rally” at the school where organizers called for tolerance and respect on campus.

Hughes’ statement on the new incident said that Emory’s “commitment to the core values of diversity, inclusion and respect is longstanding and non-negotiable. We have been guided by these values in responding to both of these incidents.

“As we continue to gather the facts regarding these allegations,” it said, “it is my pledge to continue to uphold the values that guide our university, and to update the Emory Law community as we work together to heal and grow.”  

But the “Call to Action” posted by the Concerned Student Body, Emory Black Law Students Association and Emory Law Student Bar Association is less forgiving.

Addressed to Hughes, Provost Dwight McBride, the Emory board of trustees and the “Greater Community,” the petition said “Zwier’s words and actions undermine the academic, social, and professional environment that we have worked so hard to cultivate.”

The petition asks that Zwier be fired immediately, and that his scheduled classes be reassigned or offered elsewhere.

It also seeks mandatory cultural competency, bias and sensitivity training for all faculty, and the creation of a committee to address the issues of “race, culture, religion, and marginalized groups.”  

A third request is for more transparency regarding student input surrounding faculty hiring and retention.

“These requests reflect the needs and concerns of students who came together to support the African American students struggling first-hand. In unity, we are repairing and reviving our beloved community,” it said.