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A Professor Circled “Hence” On A Latina Student’s Paper And Wrote “This Is Not Your Word"

“How many degrees do I need for someone to believe I am an academic?” Tiffany Martinez wrote in a blog post describing the incident.

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A Latina student at a university in Boston said that her professor on Thursday handed back her paper and told her, in front of the class, “This is not your language.”

After looking at more of the comments the professor left on her literature review, Suffolk University sociology major Tiffany Martínez noticed that the professor had circled the word “hence” and had written, “This is not your word,” underlining “not” twice.

And at the top of her paper, the professor had written, “Please go back & indicate where you cut & paste.”

Martínez, an aspiring professor who was born and raised in the Bronx, told BuzzFeed News that her professor had called her to the front of the senior seminar course on Thursday to receive her graded paper when she made the language comment.

“She spoke loudly enough that students at the back of the room heard and asked if I was OK after class,” Martínez said.

She felt terrified after the incident.

“I spent the rest of the class going back through every single line, every single citation to make sure that nothing had been plagiarized, even though I knew I hadn’t,” she said.

Later that day in a blog post titled “Academia, Love Me Back,” Martínez wrote about her experiences as both a first-generation college student and US citizen at what she calls “an institution extremely populated with high-income white counterparts.”

“My last name and appearance immediately instills a set of biases before I have the chance to open my mouth,” she wrote.

“As a minority in my classrooms, I continuously hear my peers and professors use language that both covertly and overtly oppresses the communities I belong to. Therefore, I do not always feel safe when I attempt to advocate for my people in these spaces,” she added.

Martinez also described how the incident made her doubt her capabilities as a scholar.

In this interaction, my undergraduate career was both challenged and critiqued. It is worth repeating how my professor assumed I could not use the word “hence,” a simple transitory word that connected two relating statements. The professor assumed I could not produce quality research. The professor read a few pages that reflected my comprehension of complex sociological theories and terms and invalidated it all. Their blue pen was the catalyst that opened an ocean of self-doubt that I worked so hard to destroy. In front of my peers, I was criticized by a person who had the academic position I aimed to acquire. I am hurting because my professor assumed that the only way I could produce content as good as this was to “cut and paste.” I am hurting because for a brief moment I believed them.

Martínez said her blog posts usually average 15 views and three shares among her close friends. The one she wrote yesterday has been viewed and shared thousands of times on social media, and has garnered hundreds of comments from other people of color who have experienced similar treatment at school.

“It’s surreal how overwhelmingly supportive the academic community has been, but they’re also telling me, ‘This isn’t going to end now,’” Martínez said.

She has not spoken with the professor since the incident, but has brought it to the attention of the chair of Suffolk University’s sociology department, who has launched an investigation.

“The head of the department is very familiar with my work and my writing,” Martínez said. “He looked over my paper and had nothing but good things to say.”

BuzzFeed News has reached out to the Suffolk University sociology department for comment.

Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.

Contact Tamerra Griffin at tamerra.griffin@buzzfeed.com.

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