'That may be the welfare office calling you now,' USC professor says to student who received apology from Pastides

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The University of South Carolina community, including the school's president, has reached out in support of a student who says an instructor made an insensitive remark at her expense during class on Thursday.

USC junior Angela Bogni says during one of her classes where a discussion on welfare was going on, her phone rang. The instructor, Tobias Lanz, said in his American Government class "That may be the welfare office calling you now."

In multiple tweets, Bogni, a 20-year-old biology major with hopes of going to medical school, says no one in her 200-person class laughed at Lanz's comments. She did record her confronting him after class, where Lanz said he didn't mean anything by the comment and wasn't directing the welfare comment at her.

"His words have a huge impact on people and the way they think," Bogni said. "His joke enforced a negative stereotype we as African Americans have been fighting to shake since the '80s ever since [President Ronald] Reagan created the 'welfare queen' I don't want him to lose his job I want a real apology and I want him to start thinking about the things that he says."

Bogni's tweet caught the attention of several USC community members, including university President Harris Pastides, who addressed Bogni directly from his Twitter.

"I'm sorry for what you experienced today and deeply troubled by comments that perpetuate racist stereotypes," Pastides said. "This is not representative of @UofSC. We stand with you. Dept Chair Todd Shaw will be in touch with you directly #NotOnOurCampus."

A number of students are responding in support of Bogni, while others are not as supportive.

A number of students claimed that this is not the first time Lanz made comments like this.

Ultimately, Bogni said she will return to class and continue working toward her A grade in the course. She also says she hopes people understand and respect her choice to stand firm on how the interaction meant to her. She says the response she's gotten is not surprising, especially the name-calling and negativity.

"I do admire the support I'm getting and I'm not surprised by the name-calling, harassment, and negative backlash I am also receiving. I knew what this would come with. But I wanted to be heard," she said. "I knew that just filing a report it would have been swept under the rug and he could've continued with such distasteful jokes. I do not think he is a racist by any means, just out of touch and a person who doesn't think before they speak. And with such a big platform as a professor at a university who teaches hundreds of students a day, there isn't room for that."

The professor at the root of this released a statement late Friday, saying:

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

I am issuing an apology to Ms. Bogni and all of my Political Science 201 class. I made a joke last week that was never intended to offend anyone. Unfortunately, it did and I am sorry. I am truly saddened and shocked by this turn of events because I value the relationship I have with my students. In my 24 years at USC, it has never been my intention to offend. I look forward to speaking with Ms. Bogni personally as we move forward.


Tobias Lanz, Ph.D.

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