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WSU President: Professor Who Used Racial Term to Face Reprimand

A professor who used a vulgar racial term while arguing with a student about a political demonstration is likely to face a reprimand, but will be allowed to continue teaching, Washington State University President Lane Rawlins said.

Professor John Streamas used the term “White (expletive)” while arguing with College Republicans on Nov. 2. The students had erected a 24-foot chain-link fence on a busy part of the campus to show support for the Bush administration’s plan for a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico

“His comments were totally inappropriate, and I think he knows that,” Rawlins told KREM television of Spokane. He added: “One utterance of a faculty member in the heat of discussion is not the kind of thing for which you terminate someone. But we are looking at reprimands, at whether this is a pattern of behavior.”

The demonstration drew a crowd of protesters who hurled accusations of racism at the Republicans, and the reactions of Streamas and another professor, David Leonard, made the event a hot topic on radio talk shows and cable television programs nationwide.

Leonard demanded that College Republicans member Daniel Schanze stop filming him during the demonstration. When Schanze didn’t stop, Leonard demanded to see his student identification card.

Schanze called it a “gross display of power” and an attempt to stifle his opinions; Leonard later apologized for his actions in a letter posted on

Another student, Dan Ryder, said Streamas called him a “White (expletive).” Streamas acknowledged using the term, but said it wasn’t directed at any individual.

Rawlins said the area of campus where the demonstration occurred is a public place, where speech is protected by the First Amendment. But, he said, professors are also expected to set good examples and follow the faculty code of conduct.

Schanze and Ryder said they planned to file formal complaints against the professors through WSU’s Center for Human Rights; it was not immediately known if they had done so or what punishment Leonard might face.

In an e-mail last month, Streamas said the fence was a provocative and racist symbol.

“It is a violently racist symbol, no different from Nazis carrying a swastika through a Jewish neighborhood or the KKK rallying around a Confederate flag in a Black neighborhood,” he wrote.

Streamas and Leonard are professors in the Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies.

Story-related links:

Video of Professor John Streamas arguing with WSU College Republicans:

Dr. John Streamas’ profile and bio (WSU site):

Reader comments on this story:

There are currently 5 reader comments on this story:

“pray for healing”
This parody is a despicable, hateful, and totally unacceptably racist act.  The day of saying whatever insulting thing you think about another ethnic group, followed by a speedy “I apologize” must end!  Words have substance that have life beyond the statement, with the divisions they cause lingering long after the “apology.”  The issue is how do we heal the hatred in the hearts of those who utter or write racist statements!  This is a great time of year for those inclined to spew bitterness into the universe to use this Christmas season as a time for self reflection of the root causes of the hatred, fear, and bitterness toward others.  Then pray for healing because it is not possible to hate others without being impacted personally by that spirit of hate.  Now is the time!

-Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner,
District of Columbia

“where’s the even-handedness?”
On one hand the Washington State University professor is raked over the coals for his comment to a student — a comment arising no doubt from the heat of the moment and the other with thought, intent and purpose maligns a minority group by satirizing a Christmas carol dodges the scrutiny of Hannity and Combs. Where’s the even-handedness in this? 

Corpus Christi, TX

“fear and hatred”
While the Primary Source claims freedom of speech in writing the editorial on racism and claims it was drawing attention to affirmative action, it really shows the hatred of having Black students on campus.  We will welcome those students to Bowie State University. Here, you will not have to face fear and hatred as you are facing at Tufts University. Come on down.

-Larry R. Shannon,
Bowie, MD

“shame on the staff”
I haven’t had the opportunity or the misfortune of reading the entire Christmas carol. The excerpts reprinted here reflect the ignorance of the staff, not a clever, satirical comment on affirmative action. I’d like to distribute the entire carol to students in my communication courses, a racially diverse student body, during our unit on race, gender and language.    Something tells me at the very least it would be determined insensitive by 101 students.  Shame on the staff for propagating such racist stereotypes.



What is so outrageous about this story is that the carol was only targeted at black students. Which leads me to believe that the problem is the racist attitudes toward the black students, not affirmative action. This was a despicable act that should yield punishment.

-Joyce White,

Port Jefferson, NY

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