Fordham University fired a professor who mixed up the names of two Black students during a class. According to The Observer, Christopher Trogan’s termination on October 5 stemmed from the subsequent correspondence he had with his students in the wake of the incident.
Trogan was a lecturer at the university’s English department, and the incident in question happened during a class the professor was teaching on September 24. After mixing up their names, the two Black students sent Trogan an email after class to let him know they felt disheartened and disrespected by his actions. The Black students also said they believed their race played a part in Trogan mixing up their names.
Trogan subsequently sent an email to his students to clarify the incident. And in that email, Trogan claimed the mix-up was an “innocent mistake” as he had a “confused brain” because the Black students were late for the class and he was reading another student’s work when they arrived.
“The offended student assumed my mistake was because I confused that student with another Black student,” Trogan wrote in the email. “I have done my best to validate and reassure the offended student that I made a simple, human, error. It has nothing to do with race.”
But one of the Black students who spoke to the news outlet said that wasn’t the first time Trogan had mixed up their names as he had repeatedly done that over four classes. The anonymous Black student added that their previous experience in Trogan’s class wasn’t also something to write home about.
“I felt really disrespected,” the student said. “I did not feel heard because every time he (misnamed me) I would tell him, and it just seemed like he would brush it off or that he did not care.”
Trogan informed the students they could file any complaints with the Dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center, the English Department Chair as well as other officials. But the second Black student, Chantel Sims, said she felt Trogan’s response to the incident was a little over the top, and that was what they actually took issue with.
“It seemed a little excessive, like all you needed to do was say sorry and it would have been fine,” Sims said. “We were not actually that upset about him mixing up our names. It was more so the random things he would throw into the response.”
Trogan, in the email to the students, had clarified the course in question was “centered specifically and explicitly around issues of justice, equality, and inclusion,” and he has dedicated his “entire life” to such matters. But Sims said a part of the email where Trogan highlighted his credentials and “everything he has done for minorities” passed off as a white savior complex to her.
Trogan is said to have ended the email by telling the students he was open to stepping down as their lecturer if the students felt they had been discriminated against, The Observer reported. “Depending on your response to the officials above, I may — or may not — be your professor in class next week. It’s all up to you,” the professor wrote.
Following an investigation into the incident, Trogan was terminated on October 5 after he was initially placed on suspension. Trogan told the news outlet that the contents of his termination letter did not focus on him mixing up the students’ names, but rather on the September 24 email he sent to his students.
In the wake of his termination, Trogan reportedly sent a nine-page email to 80 of his former students and advisees to detail what he went through during his termination process.
“I was never informed of the charges against me, nor of the nature of the investigation of which I was the subject,” Trogan claimed in the email. “I was kept completely in the dark.”
Trogan also solicited support from the students. “Their team of lawyers may now even come after me — even after my termination — with threats and charges against me personally and professionally for sending this to you, but I will deal with those when they come,” he wrote.
The university’s associate vice president of Public Safety has since sent Trogan an email instructing him not to step foot on campus as he’s no longer an employee and he could be reported for trespassing if he does that. He has also been told to refrain from communicating with his former students and advisees.
Trogan said he’s contemplating taking private action against the university,