The teacher attempted to defend the use of the offensive term before changing the subject, according to students.
A University of Oklahoma professor is under fire for allegedly comparing a popular ageist insult with a racial slur during a class on Tuesday.
Peter Gade, director of graduate studies at the university's Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, was responding to a student's suggestion that older journalists need to keep up with the younger generation, which Grade said was the equivalent of saying "Ok boomer," according to the school's student newspaper OU Daily.
The article said the "class broke into light laughter" before the lecture took an unexpected turn.
"Calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a n--ger," Gade told the class, according to the newspaper, which said some of its staffers were in the room when the incident occurred.
OU Daily's assistant culture editor Molly Kruse said she called out his use of the offensive word, which he attempted to defend before changing the subject, according to the article.
The dean of Gaylord college, Ed Kelley, met with students following the class.
"I'm not sure that [type of language] does [have a place in the classroom]" Kelley said, according to the paper. "Perhaps it did once upon a time. Perhaps he was using it as an educational tool. We have no record at all of Dr. Gade, a distinguished professor who's been on the faculty here for more than 20 years, of him ever using this term, much less any kind of other racially inflamed language."
Some students told Kelley they would not be returning to the class. He said the faculty will gather more information to determine the next steps, according to the article.
"We wanted to hear from (the students) exactly, not only what was said, but in the context what was said. And then just importantly, their reaction to what was said," Kelley said. "We also are going to reach out today and try to talk to the African American students who are in the class. We want to get their perspective as well, if they want to share with us, and they don't have to."
The university interim president, Joseph Harroz Jr., released a statement condemning Gade's actions.
“Today a professor stated in his senior journalism class that there is an equivalence between the offensiveness of 'OK, Boomer' and the use of the 'N-word,' using the actual word itself. While the professor's comments are protected by the First Amendment and academic freedom, his comment and word choice are fundamentally offensive and wrong," read the statement.
"The use of the most offensive word, by a person in a position of authority, hurt and minimized those in the classroom and beyond. Our University must serve as an example to our society of both freedom of expression and understanding and tolerance. His words today failed to meet this standard. #WeAre speaks for our community; his words today do not,” the statement concluded.
"I realize the word was hurtful and infuses the racial divisions of our country, past and present," the professor wrote, according to the paper. "Use of the word is inappropriate in any -- especially educational -- settings."
The term "ok boomer" has become a viral sensation among millennials and Generation Z, as it claims to call out the perceived notion that Baby Boomers are out of touch and have condescending attitudes towards teenagers and young adults.
"It isn't intended in the malicious way that 'snowflake' is aimed at younger generations," Hannah Hill, 20, said of the phrase in an interview with NBC News in October. "It's a funny way the younger people can laugh off the entitlement of some baby boomers. It is a humorous way to say 'OK, whatever' and move on with our lives."