NEW YORK CITY (TND) — The termination of a Fordham University professor reportedly stemmed from his repeated confusion over the names of two students who allegedly said they felt he was mixing up their names because they were Black.
Former English department adjunct professor Dr. Christopher Trogan was terminated Oct. 25 and placed under investigation following a string of communications with his students attempting to explain the mistake, according to the university’s campus paper The Fordham Observer.
Trogan called the mix-up an “innocent mistake,” the student-led newspaper reports, and blamed it on a “confused brain” because the students had arrived while he was in the midst of teaching. A student involved in the name confusion reportedly said the mix-up happened on at least four separate occasions.
The offended student assumed my mistake was because I confused that student with another Black student,” Trogan reportedly said in one of his email correspondences to students. “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.
Trogan reportedly dictated several emails to students after he received complaints about the repeated mix-up. Among those correspondences was an email sent to all 80 of his former students which included a nine-page letter explaining his experience throughout the termination process.
Another one of Trogan’s emails to students following the incident attempted to reassure them his class was devoted to “issues of justice, equality, and inclusion.” Trogan added in the email he has been committed his “entire life” to these issues and described his career-long dedication to racial justice.
One of the students involved in the name mix-up said Trogan’s email gave her the impression he was portraying a “white savior complex,” according to The Observer. Other students reportedly agreed.
However, one student the Observer spoke to was reportedly shocked at Trogan’s termination. Even though she agreed his correspondences to students were a bit excessive, she said she didn’t think they were worthy of termination. “I was really shocked because it did not seem like that big of a deal to me,” the student said. “I did not think he did anything wrong.”
Trogan was ultimately served with trespassing orders by the university’s public safety office, which stated he could not come onto university grounds or communicate any further with students.
The Fordham professor attempted to use his union membership as leverage to help him in the case. But Trogan’s termination made him ineligible for the union to file a grievance on his behalf, according to The Observer.
Trogan committed to leaving his role as an adjunct professor and to begin transitioning into a one-year lectureship on Sept. 1, the campus paper reports.
An email statement from Fordham’s Assistant Vice President of Communications Bob Howe said, “The University takes personnel matters very seriously, reviews decisions on multiple levels, and addresses such matters confidentially in accord with University policies,” and thus “cannot comment” on the specifics of Trogan’s case.
Howe concluded his statement to TND asserting, “Media representations regarding this issue do not reflect the facts in Dr. Trogan’s case.”