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Retired Miami professor allegedly used a racial epithet against protesters in Oxford

Oxford City Councilor Jason Bracken posted a video of himself and two others confronting a man who allegedly called protesters ‘monkeys’ during an Oxford Black Lives Matter protest on June 4.

“I remember hearing ‘monkeys’ so clearly,” Bracken said.

In the caption for the Facebook video, Bracken, a Miami University professor, identified the man as Miami faculty member Douglas Brooks. Brooks is a retired professor who is still teaching online classes for the Department of Education, Health and Society. 

In the video, Bracken and an unidentified man stand in front of Brooks asking him to repeat what he said. Brooks repeats that he is “very confident,” as the woman taking the video explains it will be publicly broadcast. The video ends as Brooks gets in his car. 

“I really became angry and then quickly reverted to making sure nobody got so angry that they assaulted him,” Bracken said.

Brooks did not respond to requests for comment. 

Provost Jason Osborne wrote in an email to Miami students and faculty that Miami reached out to Brooks, who denied the allegations. 

“I have trouble believing it was accidental,” Bracken said. “Out of all the words he could have used, out of all the insults he could have thrown us, how is that he chose a racial slur if he didn’t mean to be protesting with racial bias?”

The protest, which occurred in TriHealth & Fitness Pavilion, had both white and black protesters as well as students and community members. Associated Student Government Secretary for Diversity and Inclusion Brandon Small said about 200 people were at the protest. 

Before the protest began, organizers, who were made up of both students and community members, explained the protest would be peaceful. They described what protesters should do if confronted by police. 

Small said there were two people who spoke during the protest about their experiences being black in their community. 

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“It was just really cool to see all these people come together in this space,” Small said.

Toward the end of the protesters’ march, Bracken noticed Brooks’ car nearby. He decided to approach the car to take a photo of the license plate. 

“I felt it was creepy that he at least partially followed us and was watching us from across the street,” Bracken said. 

Bracken said Brooks drove away once he saw Bracken recording his licence plate.

Soon after the video was published, a petition, started by Miami student Shelby Rice, called for Brooks’ removal from the university. Rice declined to comment.

As of 12 a.m. Sunday, June 7, the petition had more than 14,000 signatures. 

Small said he sent an email to Miami President Greg Crawford trying to meet with him, but he did not get a response. 

Crawford later sent an email to the Miami community addressing the incident. In the email, Crawford wrote that he chose not to identify the individual or his comment. 

He went on to write that racist speech and actions do not represent Miami’s values. 

“No student will be required to take a course from this faculty member,” Crawford said. “Our academic leaders are working to make this happen.”

Miami provost Jason Osborne clarified in an email sent a few hours later that Brooks was teaching a summer class, but that students would be allowed to complete the course with another professor. 

“We will continue to take all appropriate steps needed to protect our students and colleagues from bigoted actions,” Osborne wrote, “but let me clearly state that no student, staff, or faculty member can be dismissed or punished for expressing their individual constitutional rights.”

But students were not were not satisfied with Crawford and Osborne’s emails.

“Personally, I would like to see a little bit more action rather than be statements,” Small said. “For example, with this situation. I understand that [Brooks]'s retired, but he's still teaching an online class. He has, in my opinion, no right to teach a class.”

Bracken said he appreciates Miami giving students the option to take a different professor’s course. However, he hoped the university would do more.

“I would also prefer it be said definitively that he will never work here again,” Bracken said.

Bracken said he was bothered by Osborne’s mention of Brooks' first amendment rights to free speech. He said he believes that Brooks’ actions violate the fundamental ethics of how professors should treat their students and peers. 

Bracken said he has not filed an official report with Miami, due to the dozens of witnesses that have come forward through social media and in the comment section of Bracken’s original Facebook post. 

Oxford Vice Mayor Bill Snavely was among those who commented on Bracken’s Facebook page. 

“It was truly appalling,” Snavely wrote. “He did call the protesters ‘a bunch of monkeys.’ He said, ‘Look at you. Just look at you.’ And I replied, ‘Yes, look at us, and look at you!’ My gosh, he was acting in a belligerent and racist manner. Sad that he was associated with Miami.”

Community member and Miami alumna Emily Kuhn was observing the protests with her sons, when she saw Brooks pull up behind the protesters. She said he paused in his car before getting out of the car to begin yelling. 

“Nobody had a camera facing him when he came out,” Kuhn said. “I know that's the big question: ‘why isn't it on camera?’ He was at the back of a crowd and everyone else was looking forward.”

Kuhn said she had Brooks as a professor while earning her undergraduate degree in teacher education from Miami. She said when Brooks started yelling, 20 or so protesters turned around to get him to back off. 

“He continued yelling, saying things like, ‘I can't believe – look at all these monkeys,’” Kuhn said.

Kuhn said she doesn’t believe he was yelling at one individual in particular but at the protesters as a group. 

Before Brooks drove up to the protest, Kuhn said the event mostly consisted of different black speakers, both students and community members. 

“I think the most impactful thing for me was seeing the support from the community members,” Small said.

Oxford City Council emailed a statement to those who are a part of their email chain. The statement is signed by Oxford Mayor Mike Smith, Crawford and Oxford National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Fran Jackson. 

“It has long been time for transformative change, now more than ever it is time to come together and focus on our core values which define us,” the statement read. “Values centered on creating a just society for all. Together we will work to make Oxford, Ohio our nation’s most welcoming college town, a community devoted to equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

The statement went on to thank those involved in organizing a vigil for George Floyd, which will take place in Uptown Park, at 6:30 p.m., June 8.