Jude Morelock, a lecturer in sociology teaching slave history at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, has been fired after a dispute with African American student Kayla Parker. Parker accused Morelock of being racist based on a multiple-choice exam question about the impact of slavery on black families.
Parker labeled Morelock a racist after taking issue with a specific multiple-choice exam question about the impact of slavery on African American families. Following the confrontation, Parker says Morelock repeatedly attacked her on Facebook in a series of posts.
A UT Knoxville spokesperson would not confirm the reasoning behind Morelock’s removal in April, midway through the semester, and said the university was prohibited by federal law from discussing the interactions between Morelock and Parker, Knoxnews reports.
In a post on Medium, Parker wrote: “The whitewashing of Black history has historically been used to justify the barbaric behavior that White people inflicted on Black people for centuries and I was seeing this happen again in my class.”
Parker then claimed the professor was not interested in “having a conversation or hearing my concerns.”
Here was the exam question that sparked the dispute:
Historical research on African-American families during slavery shows that:
A) Family ties weren’t important in African cultures where the slaves’ ancestors originated; consequently, family bonds were never strong among slaves.
B) Two-parent families were extremely rare during the slave period.
C) Black family bonds were destroyed by the abuses of slave owners, who regularly sold off family members to other slave owners.
D) Most slave families were headed by two parents.
Parker chose C, but was told by her professor the correct answer is D.
Parker continued: “When class in session, she began making backhanded comments directed at me.
“After class, my Professor and I went into the hallway for our scheduled meeting. Before letting me speak, she spent 3 minutes flipping through various books and citing sociologists who didn’t explicitly mention the destruction of family bonds.”
In regards to the Facebook posts, Parker said: “Apparently, she forgot about privacy settings on Facebook. Her comments include, but not limited to: ‘After the semester is over and she is no longer my student, I will post her name, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn… after she graduates, all bets are off’ and ‘Ignore the facts, promote a misinformed viewpoint, trash me and I will fight you.’
Parker seemed please with UT Knoxville’s handling of the situation, writing: “Fortunately, this story has the unusual ending of a University standing up for a student. I was removed from the class, given alternatives for completing the course, and offered additional resources to ensure my safety…When white people refuse to use their privilege and voice to fight against a society that disproportionately victimizes people of color, they are in fact contributing to a racist and unjust society.”
In a Facebook message, Morelock said she had been advised by her attorney not to comment.
“But I have this to say: For this woman to publicly call me a racist is outrageous and unconscionable, as promoting racial justice has been a large part of my life’s work,” she wrote.
Speaking to MailOnline, Morelock said: “I am a lifetime activist and proponent of racial justice, so being called a racist is the worse slur that anyone could possibly make against me.
“Look carefully at the articles you have read, and you will notice that not one shred of evidence or one example of racism has even been provided.
“I taught for 17 years at a historically black institution, Knoxville College, and hundreds of my former students, all of whom are African American, are Facebook friends who have been at the forefront of people defending me on social media. They are outraged that I have been referenced as a racist.”
University of Tennessee
The University of Tennessee was established in 1794, two years before Tennessee became the country’s 16th state. Today, it is a public sun- and land-grant university that serves nearly 28,000 students.