An IU East professor teaches a journalism ethics course, despite a controversial incident six years ago at the University of Kansas

IUPUI opened registration for the 2022 spring semester on Oct. 25. As a part of registering for classes, students might investigate the backgrounds of their courses’ instructors. This is largely to see what to expect from the instructor, but it also notifies the students of any issues involving the instructor.

IUPUI student journalists or students pursuing the online major of digital media and storytelling will eventually need to take the J410, Media as Social Institutions, course. The ethics of journalism is part of J410, and for students taking J410 online, the professor instructing the course is Dr. Andrea Quenette. 

Six years ago, a student activist group that called itself “Concerned Student 1950” held multiple protests at the University of Missouri following several racist incidents. On Nov. 12, 2015, these protests prompted communications students at the University of Kansas to discuss the topic of discrimination and how best to approach the topic on campus. This discussion was held in a class instructed by Dr. Quenette, who interrupted their conversation. Dr. Quenette said that she “as a white woman” never noticed any racism on the campus. Dr. Quenette also used the “n-word”, saying she never saw it “spray painted on walls.”

Amy Schumacher, a student of Dr. Quenette at the time, wrote an open letter following the incident. According to Schumacher, Dr. Quenette’s following comments were “even more disparaging,” and that Dr. Quenette’s comments were an “active denial of institutional, structural, and individual racism.” Schumacher also wrote that Dr. Quenette refuted any further evidence presented by other students and said that academic performance was the sole reason for low graduation rates among black students.

According to Schumacher, Dr. Quenette’s statements supported the idea that students of color are “less academically inclined and able” and that support, or lack thereof, from institutions does not reinforce academic success. 

Schumacher wrote that Dr. Quenette exhibited “aggressive, unprofessional behavior unacceptable of a university faculty member.” According to Schumacher, Dr. Quenette repeatedly violated the anonymity of students, joked about suicide in discussions about how to talk about suicide on campus, and mocked her graduate students for seeking aid in the form of additional resources and support.

Schumacher also wrote that Dr. Quenette disclosed personal information about students despite risks to their safety. For instance, Schumacher wrote that Dr. Quenette “exposed information about the personal location of a former GTA in the midst of a domestic violence situation.”

Concerning a violation of FERPA regulations, Schumacher wrote that Dr. Quenette had revealed the midterm grades of past students during a GTA orientation.

Following an investigation which lasted for four months, Dr. Quenette was acquitted of any wrongdoing by the University of Kansas. Despite being cleared, Dr. Quenette was still let go by the university.

During her time at IU East, where she has taught J410 for several years, Dr. Quenette said she has reflected on the incident. Dr. Quenette said she has learned how to talk about race in a more productive fashion, and that she understands how important the topic of race is. She said she has learned a lot through experience and is willing to discuss the incident despite it being a “difficult and sensitive issue.”

According to Dr. Quenette, professors have a responsibility to “get it right,” and said she has improved her empathy skills since the incident. 

Dr. Quenette said she has not reached out to her past students since the incident.

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