Professor Marcie Cooperman recently reviewed for a test with her class when she made a racially charged comment during her lecture, which led to her removal from Montclair State University.
This was Cooperman’s first semester teaching at Montclair State. While here, she taught culture and appearance classes in the fashion studies program.
Brianna Murdock, a sophomore communication and media arts major, is taking the class and recounted the comment allegedly made by the professor.
“We were talking about imperialistic societies, in which there’s achieved status and ascribed status. [With] ascribed status, you are born into as a slave,” Murdock said. “Then she [Cooperman] made the correlation of ‘once a slave always a slave.’”
After Cooperman made the remarks, Madeline Riche, a pre-major sophomore who was present in the class, said the students were nervous and uncomfortable.
“It was kind of unsettling to be in the class,” Riche said. “I know I laughed; it wasn’t like ‘oh this is humorous,’ it was like ‘I’m uncomfortable to be in this situation right now.’”
Adam Kaunfer, a sophomore communication and media arts major said, “I don’t think [Cooperman] meant anything malicious by it, but the wrong thing could be interpreted.“
The students reported the incident to the Chairperson of Art and Design, Dr. Abby Lillethun and the Dean of Students, Margaree Coleman-Carter.
“I directed my attention to the resolution of the reported incident by contacting the dean’s office,” Lillethun said. “Fairly quickly the incident was in the hands of human resources.”
Cooperman was taken out of the class shortly after the incident. After a week of students completing online assignments with no lecture, Dr. Lillethun has taken over teaching the courses.
Erika Bleiberg, Director of Media Relations, confirmed that Cooperman is no longer employed by Montclair State.
Dean Carter and Associate Dean of Students, Fatima deCarvalho, met with students to talk about the incident and were glad the students reached out.
“It was still an ongoing investigation so they can’t reveal too much,” Riche said. “They were saying we don’t want your class to feel uncomfortable and we take these situations very serious, if anyone is uncomfortable, please come and talk to us.”
Dean Carter did not give The Montclarion any additional information on the incident.
“Unfortunately, this is a personnel matter that is being handled by our Human Resource Department,” Dean Carter said in an email. “Due to the confidential nature of these types of matters, I am unable to comment on any actions regarding personnel actions taken by the university.”
When contacted by a staff writer from The Montclarion, Cooperman initially asked how The Montclarion acquired the information. She gave no further response to the inquiry.