Christopher Trogan: Fordham University prof fired after confusing names of two Black students

Fordham University lecturer Christopher Trogan in NYC was fired after he apologised in an email to his class for his 'innocent mistake'


                            Christopher Trogan: Fordham University prof fired after confusing names of two Black students
Fordham University is a private Jesuit research university in New York City (Photo credit: fordham.edu/ youvisit.com)

After a lecturer, unintentionally, mixed up the names of two Black students, he was fired from his job at Fordham University, a private Jesuit college in New York City. On Sept. 24, Christopher Trogan, the now-former English instructor at the university, made the error while he was conducting his Composition II class.

The episode was described by the Fordham Observer as a "name mix-up" in which Trogan was briefly "confused." The students reacted to the incident by sending Trogan an email after class, expressing their outrage that he had mixed up their names and claimed that he did so because they were both Black. Trogan, on the other hand, did not try to hide his error. He apologised in an email to his whole Composition II students for the "innocent mistake." He claimed he had a "muddled brain" as he walked into his class late and mixed up the names of the two pupils as he was reading another student's paper at the same time.

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"The offended student assumed my mistake was because I confused that student with another Black student," Trogan said in his 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."

The professor encouraged his pupils to express their concerns to the dean of the school, his department chairperson, and other administrators who have jurisdiction over situations between professors and students. Trogan also told his students that he had dedicated his life to working for justice and fairness, and that he had constructed his Composition II course "particularly and clearly around concerns of justice, equality, and inclusiveness" in response to accusations of racism.

One of the kids whose names were jumbled up, Chantel Sims, told the Observer that she and her friend were not bothered by the mix-up. Trogan's response against their claims of racism, on the other hand, irritated them. "It seemed a little excessive," she remarked, "as if all you had to do was say sorry and everything would have been OK." She added, "We weren't too bothered by him mispronouncing our names. It was more about the strange things he'd say in response." According to the Observer, both pupils whose names were mixed up, accused Trogan of having a "white saviour complex."

Trogan was placed under investigation and suspended for two days after the simple mix-up. He was summoned to a meeting with Eva Badowska, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, on October 5, which he attended with a union representative via Zoom. By the 25th of October, Badowska had notified Trogan that he had been fired. Trogan claimed that he was never aware of the charges against him in an email to his students on October 29. "I was never informed of the charges against me, nor of the nature of the investigation of which I was the subject,” Trogan said in that email, the Observer reported. "I was kept completely in the dark."

Badowska's firing letter, on the other hand, said that he was fired due to his class-wide email, not the name mix-up. Despite students' dissatisfaction with Trogan's termination, particularly the manner in which it was carried out, the institution has refused to comment on the subject. "The University takes personnel matters very seriously, reviews decisions on multiple levels, and addresses such matters confidentially in accord with University policies,"said Bob Howe who is the assistant Vice President to the communication.

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