USC communications professor placed on leave after using Chinese word that sounds like racial slur

The University of Southern California has placed a professor on leave after he said a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English while teaching a communications class, according to a report.

Greg Patton, a professor at the university’s Marshall School of Business, was giving a lecture about the use of “filler words” in speech during a recent online class when he used the word in question, saying, “If you have a lot of ‘ums and errs,’ this is culturally specific, so based on your native language. Like in China, the common word is ‘that, that, that.’ So in China it might be ‘nèi ge, nèi ge, nèi ge.’”

In a statement to USC said Patton “agreed to take a short term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps.” Another instructor has stepped in to teach the class in the meantime.