Professor Greg Patton is an award-winning communications professor who teaches a virtual class at the University of Southern California. On August 27th, he was teaching about how different cultures use different filler words while thinking. “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,” the professor said.

The following week, Patton was placed on leave. USC Dean Geoffrey Garrett offered a statement, saying, “It is simply unacceptable for faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students.”

What was his crime? The Chinese word (pronounced like “Neh-ga”) sounded too much like the N-word.

A coalition of students had contacted university officials, claiming Patton, “offended all black of the members of our class.” They stated Patton affected their mental health, voicing their concerns over him having control over their grades. 

“We would rather not take his course than to endure the emotional exhaustion of carrying on with an instructor that disregards cultural diversity and sensitivities and by extension creates an unwelcome environment for us Black students,” they complained.

I think somebody needs to tell them teaching Chinese is the opposite of disregarding cultural diversity. 

Patton taught at USC for over 20 years. He is also a member of the USC US-China Institute, where his international work is focused on China and Korea. He even taught in Shanghai at Jiao Tong University.

He is highly qualified and extremely educated in Chinese culture. I guess now social justice warriors have run out of things to be upset about. I mean seriously?

Patton responded to the students, saying he had no ill intent, and did not connect the Chinese to any English word. However, he offered some sort of apology. “I failed to realize all the many different additional ways that a particular example may be heard across audience members based on their own lived experiences and that it is my fault.”

“Unfortunately messages have circulated that suggest ill intent, extensive previous knowledge, inaccurate events and these are factually inaccurate. Fortunate [sic] we have transcripts, audio, video, tracking of messages and a 25 year record,” Patton wrote. “I have strived to best prepare students with global, real-world and applied examples and illustrations to make the class content come alive and bring diverse voices, situations and experiences into the classroom.”

That’s a gracious response to an inane complaint.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t have to teach about Nigeria.

Hat Tip: National Review, New York Post
Image Credit: Wikimedia

About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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