Paul Zwier Agrees to Bias Training, Barred From Teaching Mandatory First-Year Courses

Paul J. Zwier II/Courtesy of Emory Photo

Law Professor Paul J. Zwier II, who was suspended from teaching after he said the N-word in an Aug. 23 class, will not teach mandatory first-year courses for two years, according to a Sept. 18 letter from Law School Dean James B. Hughes.

Hughes announced “several steps … to begin the healing process” about three weeks after the University launched an investigation into Zwier’s use of the racial slur in a first-year tort law class.

Zwier will not teach mandatory first-year courses because the agreement bars Zwier from teaching courses in which students cannot choose their professors.

Other steps prompt Zwier to participate in sensitivity and unconscious bias training; create and participate in dialogues on racial sensitivity with Emory’s Faculty Staff Assistance Program; and revise his teaching manuals to provide appropriate ways to cover racially sensitive materials, according to Hughes’ letter.

The University launched an Office of Equity and Inclusion investigation last month after Zwier used the racial slur while discussing Fisher v. Carrousel Motor Hotel, Inc., a 1967 Texas lawsuit about a hotel buffet employee who took a plate away from a black customer and said a “Negro could not be served,” the Wheel previously reported. The N-word was not part of the court case. He was immediately suspended from teaching his Fall 2018 courses.

Associate Director of University Media Relations Elaine Justice did not immediately respond to the Wheel’s inquiry about whether the steps were recommended by the Office of Equity and Inclusion investigation.

Vice Provost of Equity and Inclusion Lynell Cadray told the Wheel in August that the investigation is confidential and did not respond to the Wheel’s request for an update on the investigation on Monday.

Zwier apologized to his class the day after he used the slur, as well as in a public Sept. 18 letter.

“In speaking the ‘N word’ two weeks ago in class, I said a word that can and does cause harm, and I am writing to you to take responsibility for the harm I caused,” Zwier wrote. “When I am reminded of the thoughts that go through one’s mind when anyone uses the ‘N word,’ I must fully acknowledge what a mistake it was to say the word.”

Zwier added that apologizing to the community does not remedy his use of the racial slur.

“Any attempt to explain ignores the fears and realities of racism that still haunt our society and my responsibility for protecting our community from it,” Zwier wrote.

In the days after the incident, Zwier sent apology letters to faculty and students and attended a student-organized Aug. 29 “unity rally.” About 200 students and faculty members attended the rally, with some carrying signs that read “I am not a n****r” and “Fire Zwier.”

Hughes said in his letter that he hopes the Law School community can move forward since Zwier has apologized and agreed to next steps.

“We are a diverse collection of individuals bound together by a common set of interests and values,” Hughes wrote. “We sometimes disagree among ourselves and disappoint each other, but the ties that bind us compel acceptance of our flaws and forgiveness of transgressions — especially when mistakes are acknowledged, sincere efforts to make amends are made, and forgiveness is sought.”

Emory’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) President Wrenica Archibald (16C, 19L), who helped organize the rally, did not immediately respond to the Wheel’s request for an interview.