Professor who used antisemitic slur found not in violation of university policy, faces suspension and training requirements

Assistant professor Jackie Buell was found not in violation of the university’s non-discrimination and harassment policy after saying an antisemitic slur in her class. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | Photo Editor

An investigation into Ohio State assistant professor Jackie Buell’s use of an antisemitic slur in class found she did not violate the university’s non-discrimination and harassment policy, instead classifying her behavior as “inappropriate.” 

The university suspended Buell, an assistant professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, from teaching Spring 2022 classes March 18 and required non-discrimination training for her return after she used the antisemitic slur “Jew down” Oct. 18, 2021, when referring to negotiating prices while shopping in Mexico, Marti Leitch, director of media relations at the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State, said in an email. 

The College of Medicine required Buell to take non-discrimination and harassment classes and she must meet monthly with her school’s director of diversity and inclusion for the next 12 months, Leitch said. 

“Professor Buell’s comments were inappropriate and unacceptable and considerably diverged from the expected standard,” Leitch said.

According to the American Jewish Committee, “Jew down” is an antisemitic term referring to a stereotype that Jewish people are cheap or stingy.

Leitch said the university’s investigation determined there was “no reasonable cause to believe that a policy violation may have occurred.” Buell must show growth as a result of her required training before she can return to the classroom this summer, Leitch said. 

Buell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the notice of complaint resolution sent March 18 to Buell, harassment is defined as “unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on a protected class that interferes with, denies, or limits an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the university’s education programs and activities” in Ohio State’s Affirmative Action, Equal Employment Opportunity and Non-Discrimination/Harassment policy.  

According to the complaint resolution, the Office of Institutional Equity received a complaint about Buell’s comments Dec. 21, 2021. The university then interviewed seven witnesses and watched the recorded Zoom lecture where she used the slur.

The Office of Institutional Equity found her behavior “offensive, concerning and inappropriate” but concluded that her comments did not interfere with or deny anyone’s access to university programs and activities, the complaint resolution stated. 

According to the complaint, the 31 students enrolled in Buell’s class were contacted to determine if they were impacted by the comments, but none reported any harm. 

College of Medicine Dean Carol Bradford said in a letter to Buell the university expects its employees to address prejudice, implicit bias and intolerance in themselves and others to create an inclusive environment.

“As you are aware, your behavior considerably diverged from the professional standards we hold ourselves to at The Ohio State University and College of Medicine,” Bradford said in the letter. “To your credit, you have expressed significant remorse for this behavior and the impact it has had on the campus community.”

Bradford said if Buell violates university rules or engages in “behaviors that do not align with the university and college core values” again, the university will pursue formal discipline, which could lead to her termination from the university.

“It is my sincere hope that we can avoid such steps, but please understand that my first priority is to ensure a healthy and supportive environment for all students, faculty and staff,” Bradford said. “I will not tolerate any conduct that is at odds with that vital goal.”