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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Student reports racist image in class slides

Prior to the beginning of classes, a student found a racist image featuring Dora the Explorer in the class presentation

Content warning: racist imagery, description 

A slide deck for Dr. Deborah Lannigan’s pathology and pathophysiology class, prepared by Dr. Gray Jerome, containing a racist image was reported Tuesday night. 

The course, overseen by Lannigan and taught by various Vanderbilt Medical School professors, including Jerome, covers topics in immunology, pathology and microbiology. The racist image, which features a mugshot of a brutalized Dora the Explorer with a sign saying “illegal border crossing and resisting arrest,” was placed on a slide concerning inflammation as a bodily response to injury. 

A racist image in a slide deck prepared by Dr. Gray Jerome for a class overseen by Dr. Deborah Lannigan.

A student, who requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, was going through the slides Tuesday night in preparation for class when they saw the image. They reported it, and shortly after emailing multiple administrators in the school of engineering and the offices of inclusive excellence and equity, diversity and inclusion, they were told that the professors would offer an apology the next day. 

“Upon learning of a student’s concerns, the slide the student found offensive was immediately removed from the set,” John Howser, Vanderbilt University Medical Center chief communications officer wrote to the Hustler. “Yesterday, Dr. Lannigan and Dr. Jerome met with the class and apologized. Even though the slide was never shown during the class, and a sincere apology was offered to the student and other members of the class, the matter is currently under evaluation so that appropriate steps may be taken regarding visuals for this course.”

The apologies, the student said, felt condescending and inadequate. They said that Lannigan offered to connect students to campus offices after she returned from a trip on Sept. 4, and Jerome said that the image was taken out of context. 

“They made it seem like ‘if you were offended by it, I apologize.’ Like it’s a personal thing to be offended by it,” the student said. “Generally, this is offensive, and not only offensive, but racist.”  

In the days since the incident, the student has been working with the Office of Inclusive Excellence to determine how the university will handle the incident. It is unclear if any action beyond removing the powerpoint and issuing an apology will be required of the professors. 

“Some of my friends who are also minority students, they told me that I needed to drop the course, and I began looking for other courses to take,” the student said. “This is super frustrating because I feel like white students don’t have to worry about this type of stuff, and if I weren’t in the class, I think that a lot of students would have just said okay or laughed or not said anything.” 

Requests for comment from administrators were redirected to communications officials.

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About the Contributor
Sam Zern
Sam Zern, Former Managing Editor

Sam Zern ('20) has been a member of The Vanderbilt Hustler since her freshman year, first as a staff writer and shortly after as assistant campus editor. She went on to be campus editor and, later, editor in chief. In her senior year at Vanderbilt, Sam was managing editor and streamlined recruitment and training processes.

In her time as a member of the editorial board, she has prioritized diversity and breadth in coverage, wanting to make sure as much of Vanderbilt as possible is represented in the paper. Outside of The Hustler, she studies education policy and sociology and has worked as a journalist for local publications in Austin and Nashville. She plans to pursue a career in journalism (and will gladly take any and all advice!)

Connect with Sam: [email protected] Personal website Twitter LinkedIn

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Comments (10)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
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Sharon Connelly
4 years ago

VANDY hustler girl you ROCK !!!! Wish more students spoke their mind . How in the world is this deemed acceptable???!!!!! The prof should be put in restituían along with approving prof !!! For heavens sake , the year is 2019 and this is VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY???? Who’s kidding who ????? Thanks sooo much !!

4 years ago

To suggest that children are being beaten up at the border is an outrage!! How about focusing on that??

4 years ago

From the slides, I learned that the word “inflammation” has a Latin root. That’s informative.

But as for the slide in question, the whole purpose of redacting the slide was to shield students from offensive rhetoric. Questionable motive of the Hustler to post the slide with a content warning. It seems like you are doing more to shame the professor for pointing out that the Trump Administration’s policies are hurtful and injurious toward Latinos.

Exactly. The whole point of the slide was to manifestly show physical harm caused by the Trump Administration’s policies. Many people are aware of but may not necessarily take to heart the fact that the Trump Administration’s crackdown on illegal immigrants crossing the border results in psychological trauma, is conducted through physical abuse, and may cause deaths. That slide’s purpose was to explicitly demonstrate the trauma, abuse, and probability of death.

It seems as if the professor was so concerned about the harm caused by Trump’s policies that she created a slide in which that harm is explicitly portrayed. And then she gets accused of being racist by the Hustler for voicing her disapproval of Trump Administration.

Nice job Hustler. Your knee-jerk, social justice warrior reaction in terms of calling any instance of offending someone’s sensibilities racist just shamed a professor who very likely intended to call out the Trump’s Administration humanitarian abuses at the border.

Disappointed and Concerned Citizen
4 years ago

Let’s Talk about “Image”: Our entire Family was very happy that our Niece Choose Vandy out of the many acceptances she received. She often talked about her visit to Vandy and how welcomed and “at home” she felt while there. Also, the reception she received on “Move-IN” Day just over a week ago was exciting, amazing, etc. This solidified her thought of having made the right choice. Imagine our surprise to see this “Image” of Dora coming from very influential Professors of leadership who are suppose to represent the Vandy Community of Inclusion, support, leadership, counsel, for “all” the students they encounter. Was this parade/display of Community just for marketing, etc? It is disturbing to me that my niece and others who are “different” may be considering an educational path in which they may encounter the 2 Professors with their personal prejudices and their boldness to use the classroom to display this. And it should be disturbing to Vanderbilt University as well.

Alex. Rock.
4 years ago

This image is dreadful on every level. E-v-e-r-y.

4 years ago

Congratulations. You have proven that The Hustler is a joke and a complete waist of time. Referring to THE student as THEY (multiple times) is covered in 3rd grade writing, but here you are about to graduate with a degree from Vandy and you can’t even write! The poor student who reported this nonsense is another snowflake with an axe to grind and has no chance to make it in the real world.

4 years ago

The word “racist” means nothing anymore.

On the positive side, I learned the the word “inflammation” has a Latin root… and I applaud the Dr. for having the cojones to make a clever joke, if in questionable taste.

4 years ago

Making offensive jokes is bad but being Orwellian is worse. This article should have left all involved parties anonymous. I am sad that the Hustler uses its digital influence to mob someone for a single lapse in judgment. This could happen to any one of us.

The offensive image could be interpreted as a protest to police brutality, or it could be that professor doesn’t like illegal immigration, or maybe he just really hates that particular cartoon character. Are we to live in constant fear of how someone with authority might perceive our expressions? Does our privilege to be protected from offensive ideas supersede our right to free expression? Two wrongs don’t make a right!

4 years ago

Not racist… also not particularly funny. People are just looking for things to get offended by these days. Just one more example of hyper-vigilant SJWs demanding the world conform to suit their tender feelings, which are more easily bruised than a Georgia peach. If anything, the professor would be well served to replace this slide with a redacted photo of this student. Inflammatory response indeed.

Carrie McCormick
4 years ago

I agree that the slide is overtly racist. In no way could it ever be thought to be funny. Also of concern is the spelling error. The “bodies” normal response? Does anyone proof their slides anymore?