UConn College Democrats say state senator used N-word

State Sen. Gayle Slossberg has been accused by University of Connecticut College Democrats of using a racially charged word that is “reprehensible and unjustifiable,” during a meeting with the student group earlier in the month.

But a leader of a state chapter of the NAACP warned that sometimes, using the word in a particular context is acceptable.

According to a statement released by the group on Wednesday, more than a week after her meeting with the group, Slossberg used the N-word during a discussion on her work with a local PTA, in which she said that she worked to have books with racial epithets removed from grade school libraries.

“While describing this work, State Senator Slossberg explicitly used the N-word, without euphemisms, within the context of its presence in the books,” said the group in a prepared statement.

The statement went on to say that Slossberg, a member of the Senate since 2005, did give the UConn College Democrats a formal apology over her choice or words.

Slossberg did not return several requests for comment on Wednesday and Thursday, nor did any member of the UConn College Democrats (UCD) return e-mailed requests for additional comment, or a message sent through the group’s Facebook page.

On Thursday morning Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, criticized Slossberg and said in a statement that they hope for more comment from her both publicly and within the 18-member Senate Democratic caucus.

"Senator Slossberg’s use of that highly offensive word is wrong,” the Democratic leaders said. “There is no appropriate time, place, or setting for its use. We understand that Senator Slossberg regrets her poor judgment in using that word when retelling her history of working to eliminate books containing that word from her local grade school libraries. That context does not excuse Senator Slossberg’s use of that word, but we hope that this unfortunate incident will lead to a frank discussion with her colleagues in our caucus as well as the community at large."

On Sept. 15, Slossberg, of Milford, was one of three Senate Democrats who voted for a Republican budget that early the next day also passed the House, with five Democratic votes. The budget, which would have cut UConn by $300 million, was vetoed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who among other criticisms, said it would have reduced spending on the state’s flagship university by an unacceptable amount.

The university group posted the letter on its Facebook page, with the comment: “This is our statement on our October 3, 2017 meeting with State Senator Gayle Slossberg. We seek to be a place that lives up to our nation's democratic principles of both equality and free speech. Thank you to our entire club for their input on this action.”

The statement did not offer any direct quotes from the Oct. 3 meeting, nor was Hearst Connecticut Media able to obtain a recording of the session. UCD did say that the discussion began on the subject of the University of Connecticut’s standing with the state budget, and the N-word comments were made later on.

George Mintz, chairman of the Bridgeport Area Chapter of the NAACP, said that the use of the N-word, depending on the situation, isn’t always “reprehensible and unjustifiable.”

“If I were on a panel and I said something like ‘... these N-people...’ that’s offensive,” Mintz said. “But I said something like: ‘... you want to do away with the N-word,’ well, that’s not offensive. So it depends on the context.”

Still, he said that it would be good to have a recording or a transcript of the session on Oct. 3 before passing judgment.

“The use of this word transcends political opinion and partisanship, and we refute the use of this word and any others that target the identities of groups affected by racism,” the UCD statement said.

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