Institutional racism at NYU
February 16, 2019 3:44 AM   Subscribe

"I found it easier to lead the discussion without black presence in the room, since I do feel somewhat uncomfortable with the (perceived) threat that it poses." While traveling abroad, a black graduate student at New York University says he was told by a classmate that a class discussion was easier to facilitate without a “black presence” in the room.
posted by Morpeth (103 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
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Followed by a very loud WTF.
Followed by another
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posted by sciencegeek at 4:38 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


WTF again. How is this other student still in a social work program, let alone the class? Why is NYU forcing Shahem to undertake, in public, the emotional labor of dealing with racist students' discomfort with having their privilege threatened? Gah ... too angry to about this.
posted by carter at 4:55 AM on February 16 [25 favorites]


This part of the article troubled me;
“My goal isn’t to have anyone expelled” because of this email, Mclaurin said, “but it is something that people should learn from.”
I get where he's coming from, and why he's saying it, but I feel like this sort of attitude misses the point. We're talking about students being literally denied an educational experience because the person leading the session couldn't keep his racism in check.

That sort of behavior should, if not leading to dismissal, result in said individual getting a long talk in where he is informed that their personal issues are not for students to deal with, and that if they can't keep them in check, then perhaps a serious re-evaluation of their future in the program is in order.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:01 AM on February 16 [19 favorites]


Read the article and the linked Twitter thread and I still can't wrap my head around the wtfery of this. What could that classmate have possibly thought they were saying that somehow wasn't baldly racist? I typed up like ten more questions that all have to be answered with "institutional racism" and deleted them. Why the hell is NYU forcing a grad student to confront these problems?
posted by Mizu at 5:02 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


this is just really fucking sad. Especially his last comment that he feels forced into a role by having to confront and deal with this.
posted by luaz at 5:08 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


This is, unfortunately, extremely in line with a lot of fucked up experiences friends have described in other social work programs elsewhere. Yes, you would definitely think folks would do better, and no, they don't.
posted by ITheCosmos at 5:09 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


'ongoing institutional racism' means that the organization is fundamentally compromised. Asking a single student of color to perform the gargantuan, stressful and complex task of leading the diversity work so that the school transforms into a humane workplace is out of touch with reality. Or, you know, optics designed to deflect criticism. Because no way in hell does administration not know what the problems have been for many decades. At least shaming the school in public will act as an early warning system to other students of color.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:23 AM on February 16 [28 favorites]


Also, here is NYU's "Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedures for Students,' part of their Student Code of Conduct. It's obviously been ineffective in this case.
posted by carter at 5:29 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I'm about done with threads which are simple condemnations of someone's behavior that don't include any effort to branch out into discussing what and why and how involving the pervasive racism in US culture and overcoming it. It's really easy to leap on with "this person was shitty" and not say anything further.

What was the discussion about that had areas that triggered the discussion leader to feel uncomfortable if a POC was involved? That's not mentioned once in the article, that I saw. I think that's a telling part of the story, and one which could open the discussion up into something more than just "this person was shitty".

If we're going to demand that we do the work and not lay it on one student, then let's do the work.
posted by hippybear at 5:29 AM on February 16 [52 favorites]


Wow. Just, like, the face of that student, to actually say to someone "I find your presence threatening and it's easier when you aren't here". And yet, I guess since no one would FaceTime the guy, everyone must have been feeling that way, so really it's not like this student is any worse than the rest of them.

That poor guy. It must be such a terribly lonely experience. I hope he has a really strong friendship/support sytem. Also that it didn't totally derail his trip, whether it was for a conference or personal travel. Actually, I hope he gets to go to Paris a lot, so that at least he didn't just have a really special trip ruined.

I do think that larger changes to social work and related programs in general are needed. This particular school may be especially racist, but the whole culture around social work is far too often "white middle class people enforcing the state against the poor", and it's not surprising that this affects who is in the classroom and how the classroom works. I don't say this just to bash on social workers (I've got some social worker friends who are great) but I've both had friends of color talk about social workers with hatred and fear and witnessed both white and POC friends get caught up in a really abusive, carceral system where they were policed by social workers in ways that were grotesque and unjust.
posted by Frowner at 5:34 AM on February 16 [42 favorites]


I'm about done with threads which are simple condemnations of someone's behavior that don't include any effort to branch out into discussing what and why and how involving the pervasive racism in US culture and overcoming it. It's really easy to leap on with "this person was shitty" and not say anything further.

What was the discussion about that had areas that triggered the discussion leader to feel uncomfortable if a POC was involved? That's not mentioned once in the article, that I saw. I think that's a telling part of the story, and one which could open the discussion up into something more than just "this person was shitty".

If we're going to demand that we do the work and not lay it on one student, then let's do the work.


I don't really care if discussion leaders feel triggered by black people being in the room. No amount of discomfort justifies what they did. "The work" in my view is:

1. discussion leaders should be held accountable for their actions
2. universities should ensure black students are safe
3. universities should ensure black students are included
4. next time this happens, maybe there's a better process than tweeting about it and hoping it catches

That would be a start.
posted by yaymukund at 6:43 AM on February 16 [22 favorites]


Besides the fact that these details just aren't available to us, Hippybear, what kind of details do you think would be informative? Would the discussion leading student's behavior be less bad if the discussion were about something we expect non-black people to be uncomfortable about? I have a hard time thinking about anything that you might talk about in social work that wouldn't make a racist uncomfortable to talk about with a "black presence" in the room.

What struck me in reading this article, and reading what little we do have to go on from the discussion leading student's perspective, is how enmeshed in the language of sensitivity and social justice it is. I think that he convinced himself that he wasn't a bad guy (certainly not a racist!11!) Because he'd clothed his objection in such careful tones. Like you can't be mad at him that he still had growth to do because he knows he has growth to do and he's just as upset as you are that it seems like that growth will take a long time. He didn't even seem all that embarrassed. I mean Jesus, he even had the face-saving out of "I'm so sorry, I couldn't figure out FaceTime, an app that grandmas around the world famously use."

Students are learning, even grad students, and so there may be times when people make missteps. But this isn't a misstep, it's a wilfull and conscious exclusion. If this was a requirement as part of the class, then the discussion leader wasn't just socially excluding, he was actively harming the other student's academic progress. Not for nothing, failure to make academic progress in the face of institutional racism is the very thing that gets grad students of color washed out of grad school.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:48 AM on February 16 [34 favorites]


There’s far too much about this that we don’t know, starting with whether the person giving the class intended from the beginning to exclude based on race or if this was a post-mortem reflection of "I just realized my motives were shitty and I’m going to own up to it."

Either way the excluded student shouldn’t be the one who has to deal with it. At the very least that’s a conversation you have in person or not at all. But I’m not ready to loose both barrels on someone who might be performing the exact sort of self-reflection we all clamor for people of privilege to do. One barrel will do.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:01 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


I think the whole class should be expelled - and that should just be the first step.
posted by Segundus at 7:14 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


Which is worse:

Person A: Admits that they have done something that's not great, doesn't make up a false excuse, doesn't pretend to not hear the question. Questions their own motivations and honestly discloses them, even though they don't make themselves look perfect. Also says they have been, and continue to be, working on this, even though it's a difficult problem with a lot of shame associated with it. Engages with their classmate on this even though nobody else has the courage.

Person B: Feels weird; does nothing; makes up an excuse when cornered (like: I'm having connection problems/I don't have time/oh, was that you?). Never questions his own motivations, avoids talking to classmate, especially about anything challenging. Essentially lies, by omission, to himself and everyone about why they do things. Most actions are dictated by fear and the thought of future job prospects.

There are hundreds of Person B's for every Person A. Which is more likely to lead to real change? Which is a better person, if you believe in calling people "good" or "bad"?
posted by amtho at 7:14 AM on February 16 [14 favorites]


I feel like something should be done to ensure that people who are uncomfortable around black people don't get admitted to social work school. They also shouldn't be admitted to med school or to education programs. They shouldn't be hired as professors. There need to be mechanisms so that people address these biases before they are selected for programs that will qualify them to have power over other people.

In undergraduate social work programs, one way to do it would be to have students take a class on critical cultural competence before they're admitted to the program. (This class is required at my institution, but I don't know if they have to take it before they're admitted. Nobody is directly admitted to our program: they take a year of pre-requisite classes and then they apply.) They would be required to interrogate their own subject position with respect to race, class, gender, sexuality, immigration status, disability, and what have you, and they would be required to reflect on how their privilege or lack thereof affects their interactions with other people. The professors who taught that class could make recommendations in the admissions process, including suggesting that students not be admitted or suggesting that they need to do more work to address their biases and unexamined attitudes and then reapply. This would be a lot harder to do with grad programs, though, because you have to admit people before you know them.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:20 AM on February 16 [30 favorites]


There are hundreds of Person B's for every Person A. Which is more likely to lead to real change? Which is a better person, if you believe in calling people "good" or "bad"?
This is a very important question if you think that the main person in this situation is the person with the racist attitudes. If that's the only person who matters than sure, Person A is more likely to change. But if you care about the target of those attitudes, then Person A is behaving terribly and needs to take this problem up with someone who will not be excluded and marginalized by their revelations of racism. Black. People. Matter. Their experiences matter. Their pain matters. They are not props or teaching tools for other, more-important students.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:29 AM on February 16 [67 favorites]


But that's the interesting thing, ArbitraryAndCapricious. I just applied to four MSW programs two weeks ago and all of them explicitly asked me to address my experience working with diverse groups and how I felt about the social work code of ethics. One of my schools explicitly said they they considered themselves "gatekeepers" for the social work profession and explicitly anti-racist. I did notice when I was narrowing down schools that some programs were more focused on the social justice part of social work than others, though. Here is UGA's statement, for example.
posted by Mouse Army at 7:35 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]


'ongoing institutional racism' means that the organization is fundamentally compromised.

as true today as it was 20 years ago when i was there, and when my mom worked there in a similar area. she was not the most racially sensitive person on earth, and for her to notice something as a persistent problem is indicative of its pervasiveness.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:40 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


Can you imagine taking out student loans to deal with this level of customer service?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:43 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


Here is more coverage, from Inside Higher Ed
posted by Morpeth at 7:46 AM on February 16


It doesn’t matter if the student is owning up to their biases and behavior unless they somehow repaired the harm done to the victim of said biases, openly and with the bravery to face the consequences of their biases and actions.

Otherwise, who cares? They don’t need to be working with the public.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:46 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


I'd love to get more details about this. Just feels weird. I'm very familiar with having to assume that role even though it's the last thing in the (academic) world you want to do.
posted by cashman at 7:47 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


It's well documented and thoroughly remarked that whites perceive ANY social progress that shows the merest whiff of possibility of diluting any of their social or institutional power as being too far over the line of fairness even if we are objectively only moving the privilege (by which I mean the vast combination of access, ability, opportunity, equity, etc) needle from 99% to 98%.

It's absolutely unsurprising that these whites are making this argument- basically equating the black perspective, combined with equal opportunity and the possibility that they may be held in some way accountable for letting racist ideas be verbalized by their very own mouths to some kind of real oppression.

What's new, however, is that through the Web, and through social media platforms like these (MetaFilter, FB, Twitter, etc), people of color and our allies finally have an undeniable voice to discuss and react to this shit in public, so we can finally show white people that they are putting their asses on full display.
posted by kalessin at 7:57 AM on February 16 [20 favorites]


What I find absolutely appalling (the whole thing, really, but this stood out to me) is that none of the other students he reached out to responded to him. NONE OF THEM. This isn't just a problem with one student. Why didn't any of the others respond? Where is the basic human kindness of FaceTiming him in for the class?? Like, it's a bare minimum favor for someone! Is EVERYONE in that class racist? What the actual hell?

They're in a social work program! They should be bending over backwards to HELP THEIR FELLOW HUMAN BEING!
posted by cooker girl at 8:01 AM on February 16 [15 favorites]


I for one have zero interest in embarking on learning more about the student who sent the email, a process I am sure will lead to tons of rationalizing/minimizing/strategic white tears. I would be interested in more of a discussion about longer history of complaints about issues at NYU's social work school and larger patterns of whether/which social work schools are actually doing any good work on anti-bias and anti-racism training for their students.
posted by TwoStride at 8:04 AM on February 16 [10 favorites]


What the fuck was the planned discussion on that this person felt so comfortable in excluding "black presence"?
posted by lalochezia at 8:18 AM on February 16 [12 favorites]


Ok, they feel threatened when one Black person is in the room... via FaceTime?!?

I and several of my fellow students had literal disabilities that weren't accommodated to that extent!

I mean I find it difficult to swallow that nobody in a position of authority knew about this person before now, which makes it even more reprehensible that it took a student of color making it public to get the administration to admit there's a problem. Not surprising, mind you, but still reprehensible.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:28 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


I suspect the question of Person A vs Person B socially boils down to something my therapist said when I was asking her about two bad options: both of these are SO BAD I cannot possibly decide which is least worst.

Our society cannot handle someone openly saying anything like Person A did. It consciously and deliberately smacks you in the face to hear that. Look at the whole Liam Neeson thing now. You can't politely ignore it or say "Oh, he's just having a bad day" and fudge around it. The racism is OUT THERE.

We know darned well that Person B is probably feeling racist and bothered, but we can't quite nail them down in the same way. It's passively knowing the truth vs. actively knowing. It may not have the same level of obligation because you can't pin it down in the same way that you can with the open racist.

There are hundreds of Person B's for every Person A. Which is more likely to lead to real change? Which is a better person, if you believe in calling people "good" or "bad"?

I think a Person A is more likely to lead to real change because at least they are acknowledging. I don't know on "better person." However, I think anyone being Person A is going to really be socially discouraged in society because of the explosions and drama and arguments and everything else that will come along with that. Person A's career will probably be destroyed, Person B will continue to float along and probably be just fine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:29 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


As a social worker I'm deeply ashamed and angry angry angry.

At the Masters level, internships start on week 1. That means all the people in this lecture are working with clients!


It isn't OK to live process your bias or exclude clients or peers (YOUR POC PEERS HAVE IMPORTANT, VITALLY IMPORTANT INPUT and I cannot believe I have to type that in 2019)

Get a therapist, work on yourself or come back to the field at another time. Your clients, your peers and your education don't have room for your discrimination and excuses that facetime is to to hard.

I went to a catholic private school for my Masters (and got married to my wife during) and I had to spend time, challenging beliefs that shouldn't have been an issue. The professors were pretty good, but the students that select colleges like that are generally more conservative and come from a particular background. I think they did a decent job of challenging beliefs but sometimes something would slip though that was incredibly cringeworthy. (But seriously, how did they even have a class in NYC that only has ONE POC?! What is wrong with the admissions? ) And because I was there and INCLUDED I could call them out on it. I think by the end of the two year program some of my peers really had learned about themselves and what they thought about other people.

Social work is big on finding and processing bias and it should be, but also HOW to do that is important. It's internal work. It's never your friend OR peer or god forbid clients job.

We all are human, and I know I've done some things I've regretted. I've also marched my self, aknowlegded what I did
and apologized and went to therapy and figured my own self out.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:37 AM on February 16 [25 favorites]


I tried to do some more research, looking through a few different articles and information, and on twitter where much of the material is. I didn't find any more details about the class or discussion. This person wants all the smoke though, on twitter.
posted by cashman at 8:40 AM on February 16


I think that he convinced himself that he wasn't a bad guy (certainly not a racist!11!) Because he'd clothed his objection in such careful tones.

I was struck by this too. This student co-opted the language of anti-racism to defend their racism. They're portraying themselves as a self-aware racist person, doesn't that make it okay? They're working on it!

What I mean is, it's a struggle to get white people to admit to our privilege and our racism. There are a lot of people doing the hard work of getting white people to be self-reflective. There's a hell of a lot of hand-holding and coddling and "separating the person from the behavior", so white people won't throw a fit if they're accused of racism. And of course, if you do something racist, it's much better to admit to it in a genuine, self-reflective way than to just live in denial.

This isn't some conservative racist idiot who doesn't think that racism is a problem. This is a student who's been exposed to anti-racist work, who probably even believes in some of it. But instead of using it to reflect on their behavior and change, they're using it as a shield against criticism, and an excuse to continue to behave in racist ways. I don't think that this is uncommon in "progressive" circles.

The answer to "who's a better person, the one who admits it or the one who denies it" is a distraction. What's better, a snake bite or a dog bite? Regardless of which one it is, you still got bit. Also, why is there a dog in the classroom?
He said he’d previously raised concerns about this student with the school’s administration, “basically to no avail.”
Racist behavior is a pattern for this student and Mclaurin had no recourse until it was so egregious that it became viral. Mclaurin seems to be focusing on NYU here - he won't name the student, and he talks about past failures on NYU's parts and demands that he has for NYU. The student who sent the email is a symptom; they're not the most important story here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:46 AM on February 16 [26 favorites]


“I signed up for school to go to school,” Mclaurin said. He didn’t sign up to be anyone’s “revolutionary leader.” But when problems emerge, Mclaurin said, “it’s almost like black students have no choice but to take on roles like this.”

I've had similar experiences in undergrad. In some cases you literally cannot avoid upsetting non-black people unless you permanently commit to straight up lying about your personal experiences. Who wants to advertise themselves as "problematic" to people you may have to work with in the same industry for decades afterwards?

It's not fun when you not only fall short of your goals, but remain aware of the hurdles that even a stronger, smarter version of you would struggle to clear.
posted by IShouldBeStudyingRightNow at 8:49 AM on February 16 [15 favorites]


This person wants all the smoke though, on twitter.

I'm not sure I understand what this means.
posted by TwoStride at 8:54 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand what this means.

If you're not familiar with the terminology it would take some time to accurately convey the full meaning, but essentially I'm saying that I can't tell - cannot tell - just how to take this story, because there's the person's personality, combined with incomplete but more importantly essentially just partial, details about the incidences. I'll wait for more info. American society itself remains a hotbed of racism, overt and covert, and that hasn't changed, and I see examples of it all day every single day and live through them. I just want to know more about this story because of my experiences over the years, and for me I just need more info about this one situation. If I was on Twitter like that I would just ask there.
posted by cashman at 9:17 AM on February 16


I don't know how else to interpret "this person wants all the smoke though, on twitter", along with your doubt about the details, as anything other than a suggestion that Mclaurin is posting to twitter in order to start shit.

I was hoping your answer to TwoStride would clear it up, but if anything it's just muddied it more. Do you think you could be more direct about what you're trying to say? You're being very vague about what exactly your reservations are. Like, what details could there be that would affect how you "take" the story?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:30 AM on February 16 [17 favorites]


I don't know how else to interpret

Nothing to interpret, I told you how I feel with my comment that the information available so far makes it tough for me to tell just how to take this story. I'm not making definitive pronouncements because there are a lot of elements of the story that I think need to be learned. I'll just wait for additional information.
posted by cashman at 9:48 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I don’t need more information. Barring a situation where the offending email is completely made up (unlikely) its author should not be doing social work, full stop. They can pursue their anti-racist journey in some other field.
posted by scantee at 10:08 AM on February 16 [11 favorites]


I think there s less info about the student because the point is to discuss NYU and their institutional failures. Who cares about the offending student, really, except that the student had professors and administrators, and even fellow students who weren t excluded, who should have intervened and clients(?) that may be suffering poor outcomes.

If we are talking about the student and not the institution, we re failing at the intended discussion.

NYU needs processes and procedures to prevent training students to discriminate in their service. It s not an easy task to completely institutionalize anti racism (although social work feels like it should have a high bar), but it s simple and necessary to have a process that works toward institutionalizing racial equity in any workplace.

Everyone in that room should have known what to do and someone, multiple someone's should have done it, even if it was just verbally interrupting the lessons to say 'well, know that we know there s been discrimination, in this coursework, what must we do to change course and make up for it'?
posted by eustatic at 10:17 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


There's no way that this is anything other than racist as hell. But I also see it as a byproduct of a cultural shift whereby people avoid absolutely ANY interaction that might make them even slightly, briefly uncomfortable.
posted by chinese_fashion at 10:17 AM on February 16 [6 favorites]


You wrote, "this person wants all the smoke though, on twitter." You say you don't want to make any pronouncements, but that actually is a pronouncement - one that you followed up with a lot of vague reservations about not having all the details. I invited you opportunity to correct my interpretation of it, but you didn't respond to that. You're being very evasive.

I'll be honest. It seems like you're trying to sow doubt about the story without actually committing to saying you have doubts about the story - you know what wouldn't go over well.

I'm having trouble imagining what kinds of details could surface that would change how you "take this story." What would make that email anything other than egregiously racist?

Like, give me an example here. A hypothetical scenario. Say something other than "there are a lot of elements in the story that I think need to be learned." Name one of those elements, that would affect how we should "take" this story!
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:19 AM on February 16 [18 favorites]


It's okay, I'm just one man. You all can take things however you please and proceed to think how I feel is full of shit and meaningless. It's all good.

it seems like you're trying to sow doubt about the story without actually committing to saying you have doubts about the story - you know what wouldn't go over well.

I said I don't know how to take the story. I mean that. I'm not sure whether to believe it, or not believe it with the current information we have (and I went searching for more information and more details), so I'm waiting for more information.

I can understand how that might be frustrating or off-putting, and how it might appear like those people who say racism exists, but then deny it everywhere it is pointed out. How people revere MLK Jr. but then balk when you mention how some situation you experienced was problematic. Or who say "it's just a tv show" when you go through a delineation of how something was problematic, has been problematic, and continues to be problematic. Or people who have more than enough information but just say "this isn't the right time to discuss this, lets wait".

I get that. I'm not doing any of that. There isn't enough information for me personally to know how to feel about this situation (outside of an obvious instant face-value horror) yet - yet, so I'm waiting. Yall can feel free to go ahead if you feel that certainty or feel there are elements of the story that cannot be challenged or changed and so you feel confident in the way you're taking the story.

I think we've had enough with this derail.
posted by cashman at 10:33 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]


The history of rasism, current racism and the institutional Discrimination are a part of this letter and the twitter. It's all there. It's all very very real.

The topic didn't become easier. It wasn't easier to speak, form ideas and have a discussion about whatever without this man in the room. The classroom had feelings. Feelings that they acted on in a way that denied a person educational time and themselves valuable input for their own practice .

A social worker who cannot sit with their feelings can never do effective practice.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:35 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


I mean, I think it's telling that NYU didn't just say that they were investigating this matter and no one knows the full story so hang on, but the school admitted that they are aware of long-running issues that they've been working to address. That's the story.
posted by TwoStride at 10:45 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


The thing is, in my mind, is these are college students. They are young and are learning about the world. (We all are learning about the world every day, but if you're young, you have a smaller set of experiences to use as your knowledge base.)

Saying they should all have their lives completely overturned because of this is doing what? Trying to scare others younger than them into interacting with the world in a different way because of the threat of ruin?

Seems to me the better course is to talk all this through and let learning and growth take place. If the only recourse is being cast into the outer darkness, the end result is not a changed population.

I'm really not expressing myself very well here, I don't think. I just feel that there are better conversations to be inspired by this entire situation other than "these people were shitty, they deserve bad things".

I was no paragon of virtue about many things when I was college age. But I've learned since then. I'd want others to have that chance too. And honestly, I've done most of my learning in, say, the past decade, because that's when the conversations started to be had which helped me see my own bigotry, to which I had been blind before.
posted by hippybear at 10:45 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


The thing is, in my mind, is these are college students. They are young and are learning about the world.
They're graduate students. They may be young-ish, but there are plenty of grown-ups who go back for advanced degrees. I don't think we know how old they are.

For what it's worth, I think that cashman is one of the few black people participating in this discussion (unless I'm confusing him for someone else), and I don't feel entirely great about white people in this really white space challenging his perspective on this.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:57 AM on February 16 [9 favorites]


Its spread and visibility under Trump must be contained for the future health of the rest of the world. I faced open bigotry in Schiphol from those sporting obvious american accents. Why should I have to put up with this bullshit?
posted by infini at 11:00 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Seems to me the better course is to talk all this through and let learning and growth take place. If the only recourse is being cast into the outer darkness, the end result is not a changed population.

So please tell me about your special plan for white learning that doesn't put disproportionate weight and expectation on black students — that doesn't act as though we just exist as an object lesson for white people. Or again, is it just the white students who are important?
posted by dame at 11:01 AM on February 16 [29 favorites]


Regarding the issue of what the topic of debate was, I'm not sure it's relevant. The article indicates that McLaurin had already had to raise concerns about the discussion leader with administration the prior semester based on their saying blatantly racist things. (With no result, apparently). So I suspect this was a case of the discussion leader having either a problem with POC generally, or with McLaurin personally as a result of prior events, or very likely both.

It also makes me very dubious about the leader's motivations; yes, it's possible the individual is making some better than nothing effort to improve themselves, but I'm dubious about giving them even minimal credit, to me their behavior seems equally consistent with someone who is simply comfortable with their prejudices (and quite likely convinced they don't have any) and assuming that this whole thing is just a personal problem between themself and McClaurin- they were happy to exclude they guy who'd called them out before and may very well assume that the real problem is not their racist remarks, but an oversensitive student who can't handle frank classrooms discussions. Hence making them comfortable with telling McLaurin their reasoning, because they figure he started it by complaining last semester.

The fact that this isn't the first time there has been a problem with this particular student makes the issue of lack of response by administration more significant.
posted by Dorothea Ladislaw at 11:09 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's a derail at all to interrogate this kind of statement:

there are a lot of elements of the story that I think need to be learned. I'll just wait for additional information.

I mean... the information we have is that a non-black student told a black student, "it's better when you're not in class, because I find your presence threatening." The black student who had to absorb this racist bullshit is pointing fingers at the educational institution they both attend, not at the offending student, and has not revealed the offending student's name. They are focused entirely on shining a bright light on the institutional racism at play that protects the offending student and harms students of color.

To be extremely blunt, I find the categorization of the black student's actions as attention-seeking for purposes of drama to be deeply racist. Sit with that, examine it, and correct it, because it causes harm and perpetuates the institutional racism threaded throughout the educational system, the health care system, the judicial system, and literally every little nook and cranny of white consciousness.
posted by palomar at 11:11 AM on February 16 [20 favorites]


The thing is, in my mind, is these are college students.

These are graduate students in social work; they're not your typical inexperienced first year college students. Sure, they're still learning - but if anyone could be expected not to be shitty about race, I would put graduate students in social work near the top of the list. I know that's unrealistic, because people will always be shitty, but if we're excusing the behavior of graduate students in social work because we think they just don't know better, uh, ...

Seems to me the better course is to talk all this through and let learning and growth take place.

One of the major demands that students seem to be making of NYU as an institution is more education.

I'd want others to have that chance too.

I do too. It's not only good for the people we used to be, but it's good for the world - we want more people who have had the chance to become better.

But there are at least two students this scenario; there's also the student who was excluded because of this student's racist actions. We can't prioritize the potential growth of a racist student over the actual education of students of color. That would be an awful thing to do; it also happens to be the status quo in a lot of places. Your learning was probably made possible by a lot of patience and privilege, both of which have costs, and which costs are borne disproportionately by students and faculty of color. This kind of shit drives people out of programs.

NYU's responsibility is first and foremost to the person that is being harmed by bigoted behavior. If they can come up with a plan that gives the offender a chance to learn better without prioritizing their needs over those of the person being harmed, great. But, really, it seems like they did nothing at all. No one's learning was prioritized here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:13 AM on February 16 [21 favorites]


What the fuck.

I get the institutional vs. individual responsibility argument but, but, but, the thing is absolutely innocent people of colour have been bearing the brunt of institutional failure for like, ever. And now we’re going to argue that this not-innocent individual should not be impacted? I would suggest at the least the loss of the semester and required training. The institutional response should go way further — how is it students can exclude each other? I dunno, I’ve never done a Masters — and invite some external experts to help structure the program at least.

Look, I am a mum of sons who are white who will make mistakes, hopefully not these. I don’t want my kids to suffer. But the mums of sons of colour are experiencing that Right Now. And if there is a reckoning when people who are behaving in a racist way experience consequences that they never expected while we address this inequity then...they do.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:18 AM on February 16 [8 favorites]


So please tell me about your special plan for white learning that doesn't put disproportionate weight and expectation on black students — that doesn't act as though we just exist as an object lesson for white people. Or again, is it just the white students who are important?

I'm suggesting that white people talk with other white people about the racism that is present in US culture and trying to work out how to get rid of it. I'm not suggesting that black people be used as object lessons except in that we have centuries of how badly they've been treated to use as discussion subjects.

This situation as it played out is terrible and people's lives were affected by the circumstances and that is bad and should not have happened.

But if racism is ever going to be untangled from the tapestry of our culture, we're going to have to look at it thread by thread and be wiling to examine how that tangle is and how to undo it.

We can't waive a magic wand and have all racism disappear when it's basically the air we breathe or the water we swim in. This is going to be a process. We've been working on it for a long time, and we're only just getting to where we can have conversations about the need to have conversations. I expect this project is going to take decades more to undo the 200+ years that went into creating this situation.

We have never had a Truth And Reconciliation project here in America post-slavery like we should have. We have to take this on individually, and that only happens through conversations.
posted by hippybear at 11:23 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]


We can pay activists, social workers, writers, and other people who are (and should be) primarily people of color and minorities for their work dismantling this kind of bullshit. That's one way we can do it without asking for unpaid emotional labor. As I've noted before, I have a Patreon, and so do others on MetaFilter. Many of us are doing this kind of work, and could probably use material support.

Money is in fact a magic wand that can be waved.
posted by kalessin at 11:31 AM on February 16 [7 favorites]


I don't think it's a derail at all to interrogate this kind of statement

It is, because there's no point in going in circles since there's no new information since I said what I said, but okay.

To be extremely blunt, I find the categorization of the black student's actions as attention-seeking for purposes of drama to be deeply racist. Sit with that, examine it, and correct it, because it causes harm and perpetuates the institutional racism threaded throughout the educational system, the health care system, the judicial system, and literally every little nook and cranny of white consciousness.

Thanks for that. You can find it whatever you want to find it. I've been in his shoes and more than once had to be the person in the room that pointed out the obvious racism in a statement. I'm the one people cross the street to avoid. I'm the one who exists in spaces and has other people decide it's time to go home, time to quit, time to not do whatever everybody was doing, because now I'm in the room. So to be blunt, I don't care that you refuse to stop this derail and just let me wait for more information because this situation causes me to, god forbid, stop and wait before making a determination one way or another, because I have lived and learned experiences and if I want to wait for more information, before making a determination on this story, which has information pointing in different directions, I'll do that.

Sit with that, examine it, and correct it

You do that. I've lived it all my life. I walked to my car in the predawn hours literally yesterday morning a couple of hours from this dude's university and took my hood off so the white woman jogging toward me wouldn't freak the fuck out and cross the street.

I've had people I worked with tell me they wouldn't have hired me if my hair had been done differently, because they were that scared. I could fill up MeFi with stories from my life.

So yes, you telling me I can't take more time to evaluate these claims is a joke, to be blunt. It's not something I need to stop and sit with because it's been sitting with me since I came onto this earth. Now, lets move on.
posted by cashman at 11:44 AM on February 16 [36 favorites]


[Seconding cashman; if people feel like there's more to discuss in this article/event, let's orient the conversation around that rather than around cashman's personal stance.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:47 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Saying they should all have their lives completely overturned because of this is doing what?

I'm not sure I understand who it is that's saying this, or what it even means in practical terms.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:48 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Saying they should all have their lives completely overturned because of this is doing what?

I'm not sure I understand who it is that's saying this, or what it even means in practical terms.


"I think the whole class should be expelled - and that should just be the first step."

This is a comment from earlier in this thread.
posted by hippybear at 11:55 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


This is a comment from earlier in this thread.

I think it's good practice to quote the comments you're responding to - especially if it's something like this, where an extreme opinion was expressed early in the thread and your comment came along much later. It would have helped make it clear that you're disagreeing with the opinion that the whole class should be expelled, rather than the more commonly held opinion that there should be some kind of consequence or response.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:07 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


I did quote the comment I was responding to.

There are many other examples in this thread which talk about punitive measures which should be taken toward people who need to learn and grow because they haven't learned and grown enough yet.

I'm interested in having conversations about how the entire culture grows to where this doesn't happen. Not so much in conversations about how we can punish people who haven't overcome the overwhelming malice that is racism in US culture at this point in time.
posted by hippybear at 12:12 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


This person chose to enroll in a selective program in social work. They didn't just stumble in there. And in that program they made their racism an extra burden on a peer of colour who was already overburdened with this stuff.

They should not be there and they should be long past this stage of their personal progress.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:18 PM on February 16 [10 favorites]


Which is why I wondered much earlier about what the topic of that day was, that led to this student being excluded because of race. I assume this student had been FaceTimed into class before? Or was this just a short trip to Paris which led to his physical absence for this class session? I was under the impression this was a specific topic and incident.

White people talking to white people about why this particular (unknown) topic led to this outcome would be useful in untangling this knot.
posted by hippybear at 12:18 PM on February 16


Are you suggesting that there is some topic that would explain this better than this student is a racist in a program that enabled then to feel okay sending this email and excluding the student from the group? And then the rest of the group going along with it?
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:22 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


I don't get it at all but isn't this as fucked up as maybe a whole class att police academy being involved in a criminal conspiracy or everyone in NASA school being flat-earthers, or I just don't know what...?

It's just so weird ... it's weirder than the brexit thread, so just expel everyone, and the dean on top of that
posted by uandt at 12:37 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


This situation as it played out is terrible and people's lives were affected by the circumstances and that is bad and should not have happened.

Good — what are you doing to help the innocent party here? Or, are you just writing about how white people should never actually suffer consequences?

But if racism is ever going to be untangled from the tapestry of our culture, we're going to have to look at it thread by thread and be wiling to examine how that tangle is and how to undo it.

We can't waive a magic wand and have all racism disappear when it's basically the air we breathe or the water we swim in. This is going to be a process. We've been working on it for a long time, and we're only just getting to where we can have conversations about the need to have conversations. I expect this project is going to take decades more to undo the 200+ years that went into creating this situation.


If your response to people pointing out that you are centering the effects of this on the wrong people is to pull out oh, maybe things will be better for your grandchildren, but the fact that I have much more power than you — that thousands of wonderful people will never actually live out their own potential but will waste it doing free work for people like me — it's just natural, like water, too bad, so sad, you have actually learned very little about your own bigotry.

You don't need a careful conversation or a reconciliation commission. You just need to stop insisting people center the racists in a conversation. For advanced skills, you could consider what sort of reparations you could be providing in your community — today.
posted by dame at 12:39 PM on February 16 [11 favorites]


I think maybe there are two conversations to be had here. One is the effects of racism on people today, and how this is creating a lower life experience for them in the here and now. The other is how to weed racism out of US culture and make it a place where these things don't happen.

Wanting to talk about the one doesn't mean the other isn't important. And vice versa.
posted by hippybear at 12:42 PM on February 16


Actually choosing the hand-wavey maybe in the future one over the one where you take personal responsibility is an indicator of personal priorities. And the way to do things is to actually do them. And to keep doing them. That's it. No one cares what's in people's hearts or their intentions. We're done with that now. What you actually do counts.

But you are clearly determined not to get that, so I am going to drop this back and forth now. I hope some folks reading, though, consider what they are doing and how they could be doing better today. Because I and my brothers and sisters actually matter right now.
posted by dame at 12:58 PM on February 16 [9 favorites]


This story is appalling. It’s also frustratingly vague. As a professor, the element of the story that is missing to my eyes is the professor. This was a class session; Surely the professor should have been present. I only teach undergraduates, but I find it strange that there would be a class related activity that did not have faculty attention. A couple of things:

I probably would not be super enthused to have a student ask to attend a class remotely; I feel that it would lead to breakdowns in class dynamics. However, maybe this is the way the clas is run; I have no idea. But, if I was going to allow a student to attend a class remotely, I would have to find a way to facilitate that and to make sure it happened. I would not just sort of go “hey, FaceTime one of your classmates and work it out between you.” For one thing, using open commercial products for classwork has FERPA implications. For another, it’s my job to make sure the class happens and that teaching and learning is getting done. I should not be pushing that off onto even graduate students.

Additionally, when I am present, I am paying attention to what my students are saying and how they are interacting. As the professor, it’s part of my job to address racism, homophobia, sexism, and so on in my class. I may or may not address it directly; in some cases it’s much more effective to contact students and say “When you did x in your presentation, it could be read as racism/homophobia/whatever; you need to account for that.“ Other times, there may be a benefit to discussing it openly in the class. But just letting students hash it out amongst themselves would me not doing my job.

So the unnamed student needs to own his racism in a way that doesn’t spill over on other students, but that professor needs to get in the damn classroom and do their damn job, and the department and the college need to make sure that that is happening; that is like University 101.

So, I’m not sure why “shitty student being shitty” is the lede (in educator-oriented news sources), when the real story is “where was the damn professor?”
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:05 PM on February 16 [20 favorites]


I'm finding the need to discuss racism rather than taking action hard to understand. So I looked up the student handbook for this program, and the ethics section is pretty clear, and requires that students meet that standard to continue in their path as social workers, and also references the NASW code of ethics. For penalties, the student guide includes "Recommendations may include, but are not limited to: placement on probationary status, a change in Field placement, a leave of absence or dismissal from the program. "

So hopefully that process is starting to take place right now. I mean the manual is really clear that MSW students need to adhere to the ethical standards of their profession. And if NYU hasn't been able to educate them on those standards by January, then they need to hire expert help in figuring out what is going wrong in that program and in their school.

I mean...the minimum required is that the school take action according to its own policies. It doesn't require a discussion based on hundreds of years of discrimination and slavery. It doesn't require a Truth and Reconciliation process (newsflash from Canada: We still have a ton of racism despite one!) It simply requires that the school uphold its own standards of ethical behaviour.

But if we have to have some kind of discussion about this, for me this is kind of simple as I stated. Let's say there are 10 students, 1 is a student of colour and 1 is an admitted racist. If you read just the part of the student book I linked to, it says "Acquisition of competence as a social worker is a lengthy and complex process that will be undermined by significant limitations of the student’s ability to participate in the full spectrum of the experiences and the requirements of the curriculum."

So this student of colour was prevented from doing that by the omission of response from all the class, and one student put in writing that s/he was racially motivated. And that's just one very visible incident. Do the people hoping for a broader discussion in this conversation really think that a student of colour wouldn't be held to the "commitment is demonstrated by attending all your lectures" policy? Why should that policy be upheld, but the policy on anti-discrimination be set aside because...a white social work student in 2019 somehow does not understand that it's not okay to not turn FaceTime on because you don't want a black person listening in to part of your academic program?

And if the university doesn't also address this with the professor etc. it's just as bad, but really, there's a policy -- enforce it. I hope they do.

Like, I don't know what to say here if the facts are as presented and this white student isn't sanctioned by the school.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:08 PM on February 16 [14 favorites]


I only teach undergraduates, but I find it strange that there would be a class related activity that did not have faculty attention.

I don't. I hear what you're saying. But I think you're letting the students off the hook here. I went to law school, another professional school, but in both programs the goal is to produce professionals. In both law and social work, interacting with others with a very high level of autonomy and responsibility is part of the profession. That means working with peers and even clients without immediate faculty supervision.

In other words, these people are about to be licensed to work autonomously with vulnerable clients. They need to be able to hold a discussion with peers without faculty supervision, and they need to be able to do it without being egregiously racist.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:46 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


I’ll stick to commenting on the person who sent the email since that is a something we do know.

The question isn’t whether he should be ostracized from civil society. He shouldn’t. The question is whether he should continue on with training as a masters-level social worker, a job path that requires working with the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society. I mean, this isn’t a person getting an MBA in supply chain management, he will need to be able to effectively work with people from every type of background imaginable. And, man, there is a lot of distance between doing that well and not being able to comfortably have a discussion with a black man in the room that he needs to traverse in the 14 months before graduation.

I hope at the very least this prompts some serious soul searching on the part of the students who participated in the exclusion as to whether they are cut out for this line of work. Better to learn that now, in the classroom, than on the job after harming someone with little to no power to push back.
posted by scantee at 1:58 PM on February 16 [12 favorites]


[One deleted. Unless there are actual facts in play that we haven't seen yet, "maybe the student who complained is the problem here" isn't a productive direction to go.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:00 PM on February 16 [6 favorites]


But I think you're letting the students off the hook here.

If it seems that way, I apologize. The student is, of course, responsible for his actions which are especially shocking considering his program. However, the two stories linked are from publications that focus on Higher education, and I think it’s interesting that neither address the professor at all. Also, while I am not graduate faculty in a social work program, I am perplexed at the idea that activities not assessed by the professor are part of a class. They might be part of an educational experience, but if I am asking students to do work but I cannot assess in any meaningful way, why is it part of the coursework that I am overseeing? It seems like an abandonment of educational responsibility. If the professor was going to approve distance engagement, it’s the professors job to ensure that that engagement can happen. It wouldn’t have done anything about the unnamed student’s racism, but it would have prevented the incident that precipitated the email, which probably would’ve been better for Mr. Mclaurin.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:01 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I probably would not be super enthused to have a student ask to attend a class remotely; I feel that it would lead to breakdowns in class dynamics. However, maybe this is the way the clas is run; I have no idea. But, if I was going to allow a student to attend a class remotely, I would have to find a way to facilitate that and to make sure it happened.

From the Inside Higher Ed article linked above:
[McLaurin] was in France and so was going to have to miss class. He had obtained permission from the faculty member in advance to use FaceTime to be in the class virtually, but when he emailed various students in the course, they didn't respond, so he was unable to see or participate in the class.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 2:07 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm left wondering why the faculty member couldn't facilitate the FaceTime connection.
posted by hippybear at 2:14 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I'm left wondering how all this hand-wringing in protection of the white student(s) isn't just a slightly more subtle "won't someone think of the white children?".
posted by kalessin at 2:26 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


I am going to stop harping on the point after this, but:

If the faculty member approved distance participation, it was the faculty member’s job to make sure the participation happened. Leaving it up to random student facilitation was a bad call.

Using an open commercial service for school work is probably a FERPA violation, and likely against university policy, assuming they get Federal funding. So unless the University had some sort of FaceTime deal for class participation, it was a bad call.

At the very least, if the faculty member was going to allow distance participation, they should have arranged for a University-approved tool to be used, and made sure that it was used correctly to ensure the participation for which the student was theoretically being assessed.

The faculty member does not appear to have done basic parts of their job, and that allowed a situation that negatively impacted a student’s education. Doing their job would not have had any effect on the unamed student’s racism, but it might have prevented Mclaurin having to deal with that racism, at least at that moment, in that class.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:36 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


I guess I'm left wondering why the faculty member couldn't facilitate the FaceTime connection.

I have taken graduate classes at NYU and elsewhere, and many friends/acquaintances have too, and some friends/acquaintances have taught graduate classes, and I've literally never heard of anyone FaceTiming into a graduate class. (Meetings -- departmentals or TA planning groups or advisor/advisee one-on-ones -- sure, sometimes. But not a class.) It's not uncommon for grad students to miss at least one class every semester due to other professional/academic obligations (conferences, research, interviews, etc.) but it's not common practice for students missing a class to teleconference in, and that may explain why no one responded to the email. It's... not really a thing that's done, in my experience. Hell, students can be cagey enough about sharing notes with absent classmates; at one institution where I taught undergrads, recruiting notetakers for courses was utterly impossible -- even though a small payment was offered, even though it just involved emailing the notes that the notetaker would have been taking for themselves *anyway* because they were enrolled in the course, students were reluctant to take on the responsibility.

The logistics of joining a class by FaceTime would have been even more fiddly/invasive than notetaking; grad classes usually run at least two hours, so the person handling this for McLaurin would have to find some way to arrange/prop up their own phone at the correct angle and use their own data (or rely on the often-laughably-shitty campus WiFi). Or they'd have to give up the tablet/laptop/other device they usually use for class to FaceTime him in with that, and tend to any freezes or drop-outs. Plus, it's just a pain. Connections fail. There's lag. Microphones are insufficiently loud, or there's interference. It would be difficult for both the student and the class, and I'm not convinced there'd be sufficient benefit. Had I been the instructor, I'd probably have said no. I suspect the professor didn't want to refuse the student, but also didn't have the brainspace/energy/will to facilitate this themselves, and figured "sure, whatever, if you get one of your classmates to handle it" would be a sufficient out.

None of that is meant to dismiss the hugely problematic and racist and WTF statement the other student wrote in response to McLaurin, which requires immediate intervention from the department, not just the professor. And there certainly may have been other incidents in this class, or in other classes, where the professor/department failed to intervene and should have; that the other student thought this was somehow acceptable behaviour sure does suggest that the program overall is not doing nearly enough and that there may also be a pattern of problems in this class. But I don't think the professor can really be blamed for lack of facilitation oversight, unless there's a particular culture of FaceTiming for absences at NYU Silver of which I am unaware. I don't think it necessarily makes sense to assume the class's reluctance to reply to McLaurin was racially motivated, and I don't think the professor knew about the other student's response to McLaurin until the Twitter thread; over the course of the thread, McLaurin said he and another black student in the class now planned to go to the professor together.
posted by halation at 2:44 PM on February 16 [6 favorites]


If the faculty member approved distance participation, it was the faculty member’s job to make sure the participation happened. Leaving it up to random student facilitation was a bad call.

NB I went to university during the Spanish-Amerucan War when there was no FaceTime and we could only fit half an onion on our belts, so I may be missing something essential, but would that be kind of like getting notes from another student for a missed lecture?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:46 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Am I right to be puzzled by the fact that there's only one Black student in a class (a) training social workers; (b) in New York? Maybe there's some more fundamental problem with the school, maybe the administration is not actually doing a big mea culpa when they say that very thing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:33 PM on February 16 [10 favorites]


It's strange that there are so few black students. I wonder if it could have something to do with the institutional racism.
posted by yaymukund at 3:52 PM on February 16 [12 favorites]


Am I right to be puzzled by the fact that there's only one Black student in a class (a) training social workers; (b) in New York?

In my experience NYU tends to be less diverse than some other grad schools in NYC, like CUNY, but it really varies department-by-department and even admitted-cohort-by-admitted-cohort and I can't speak for their MSW program specifically. There is apparently one other black student in this class. I wouldn't necessarily assume that there are no other people of color in the course. Average class sizes in this program are apparently between 15-25. (I've taken grad classes with fewer than five students enrolled on occasion, but I don't know if this is an upper level/specialty course or if it's a required/general elective course -- if the latter, it could be larger.)

Grad schools in general really do not do enough work to recruit or support students of color, and there's also the issue that students of color don't necessarily get the undergrad and K-12 support they need or the encouragement to even start thinking about applying to grad school, so there are fewer students of color generally (and in my experience, fewer black students specifically) than there should be. This is sometimes a little less-true in more-career-oriented programs like MSW programs, but it's still a huge issue.
posted by halation at 3:54 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


There were two; the other had arranged to have them call then but couldn't make the class because of snow. That's when the class went silent.

I've had grad students call into seminars for various reasons that they've cleared with me. But grad seminar rooms or the ones you get for them will usually be low tech by default. So if I needed to use my computer and the projector we often ended up with FaceTime or Skype on a loaner or someone's phone or computer. But as in grad classes the point is often discussion as much as anything getting notes may not be as useful.

I think the faculty member is to blame for fostering an environment where someone and their peers felt this was an okay day to act, but having a student call in is not a strange or irresponsible thing to do in itself.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:23 PM on February 16 [7 favorites]


I am in agreement with lesbiassparrow. I’m in a grad program and people GoToMeeting* into on-site classes on a regular basis for a variety of reasons: e.g. transportation woes, conference travel, illness. Perhaps remote class attendance at NYU graduate programs is uncommon, however, it's not unheard of elsewhere.

This prof has fostered a hostile course climate: they should fix that—or be taught by the administration how to fix that. In a graduate social work program, I would have expected that the department had implemented best practices around that already.

If the discussion session was held outside of class hours, between students only (I couldn't figure that out from the articles/Tweets), then the students deciding not to include Mclaurin is a different, but related problem, also involving a hostile course climate that impedes learning.

The professor should work to fix that, too, since student-to-student discussion is apparently important enough pedagogically that Mclaurin didn’t want to miss it.

*GoToMeeting is the product provided to the faculty by my school administration. Presumably, the university has addressed the FERPA issue via their vendor contract and some institutional preferences settings. Much like how Google Suite is now used extensively by universities, typically with appropriate university branding.
posted by skye.dancer at 4:45 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to find demographic information about NYU's social work school, and they really don't make that information easily accessible on their website. They have a page about Social Justice and Diversity, but it's about things they do to promote and educate about diversity, not about, you know, how diverse the program is. And one of the FAQs on the school of social works' admissions page is "How diverse is your school and student body?" to which the answer is:
At NYU’s many international locations and through associations with partner institutions, a full range of globally oriented programming occurs around the world. Students and faculty take advantage of all kinds of opportunities—from study abroad programs to School-sponsored research experiences, and curriculum-driven degree programming to global community service projects. The range of global programming continues to expand with NYU’s growth as a Global Network University. These rich learning opportunities coupled with a stimulating and eclectic learning environment such as New York helps us attract and enroll a diverse student body. We actively recruit students from all over the United States, and the reputation of our faculty, School, and University helps attract a growing international student population. Also, students are attracted to our School due to a variety of global learning options. Whether it is during the summer or during winter break, students can learn and engage in different cultures as part of their MSW education.
What even is that answer? They seem to think about diversity as being about promoting international experiences. They don't even seem to realize people might want to know about whether there are any students in their program who come from underrepresented populations within the US.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:49 PM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Student : I am going to miss your class for Reasons
em>Prof : Okay, thanks for the heads up.
Student : I do not want to miss this class, can I somehow sit in, like maybe electronically
Prof (wants to help, but already has to manage class discussions and materials and tons of stupid AV that never works right, and knows that if they say yes and there are technical problems it will somehow be their fault even though none of this is technically something they're supposed to handle) : I don't mind personally, but it's your responsibility to arrange this.
Student : what if one of my classmates facetimes me in.
Prof : Sure, as long as the class is okay with it.

I don't know if this is the conversation that happened, but this is a version of a conversation that does happen in classrooms all the time. The blame diffusion/ blame spillover in this thread is so surprising to me. Is it really such a problem that a prof approved an unconventional workaround to facilitate a student's learning? Is it a bad thing for a student to take initiative to avoid missing class material? I doubt any of this situation would have been posted on twitter if it just hadn't worked out. It gets posted on twitter because someone said something crazy racist.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 4:54 PM on February 16 [15 favorites]


They really don't make that information easily accessible on their website.

They absolutely don't. This is about the best I could do when I looked, and it doesn't look specifically at Silver, but there were evidently 1109 Social Work grad students, and only 5.1% of all grad/professional development students (across all departments) identifying as African American, in 2018. (And the discrepancy only gets larger when you look at faculty, unsurprisingly, which obviously doesn't help.)
posted by halation at 5:27 PM on February 16


Is it really such a problem that a prof approved an unconventional workaround to facilitate a student's learning? Is it a bad thing for a student to take initiative to avoid missing class material?

I don’t know if you’re responding to my comment, but in my opinion, none of those things is bad. However, clearly the classroom environment was toxic if one or more students figured that it was fine to literally scope one of their classmates completely out of the conversation because it made them uncomfortable. Which is how this ties into institutional racism.

The professor should have had the training to conduct challenging discussions and create a non-hostile course environment. That training should have been provided by the administration, which should have also worked to create a diverse student body. Which probably means the school would need to change its recruiting practices, and do more than give lip service to diversity issues. And so on.

Affecting institutional change requires interventions at different points. The classroom is a site where one type of intervention can happen. That isn’t blame diffusion, imo, it’s answering the question of what else could be done besides criticizing the student who sent the email.
posted by skye.dancer at 7:11 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I'm suggesting that white people talk with other white people about the racism that is present in US culture and trying to work out how to get rid of it.

it seems to be, in my observational experience, that the time white people are most uncomfortable/perceive the greatest threat from minorities are when they're talking about race with each other, and they often find discussions are really, really, really easy to facilitate when there are no minorities in the discussion, so...
posted by anem0ne at 8:05 PM on February 16 [5 favorites]


There's something else that really bothered me about this:
Neil B. Guterman, the school’s dean; Courtney R. O’Mealley, associate dean of student affairs; and James I. Martin, associate dean of academic affairs — said they were “deeply sorry” to hear that a student had “experienced exclusion and bias.”

Part of the school’s next faculty meeting will be devoted to producing a collective statement of commitment to ....

Mclaurin compiled a list of actions that the Silver School should take to address those systemic issues.

In this era of politicians saying whatever they want with no regard to reality at all, I've become unimpressed with words. A 'statement of commitment'? Why is it that it is the victim who's coming up with an actual list of actions to be taken? That should have been the first thing the University offered, if they really thought there was a problem that needed fixing.
posted by eye of newt at 11:31 PM on February 16 [4 favorites]


if white people want to talk to other white people about how not to be racist, that's therapy and no black student should have to sit through that shit or subsidize it with their tuition.
posted by yaymukund at 12:39 AM on February 17 [19 favorites]


I used to be complicit in thinking reparations were the wrong answer. But I think reparations or at least some sort of conscience about when white people are STILL wasting our time and money would be a solid approach to going forward with dismantling racism within a capitalist and colonialist culture.
posted by kalessin at 5:33 AM on February 17 [6 favorites]


As a white person, I understand hippybear's sense that we have so much work to do to untangle racism from our culture, etc.

But. It's not the case that this work has just started. You've got John Brown in 1859 willing to kill and die because racism is wrong. Before that, and since then, white people have been figuring this out. But the mass of white people have been able to sit it out, and figure that things will eventually get better.

If you don't know how long this struggle has been going on, if you think we *just* figured out that racism is deeply entangled in the white supremacist culture, you need to go back and read some David Walker, some Anna Julia Cooper, some Du Bois, et al.

White folk have been ducking our responsibility for a long time. It's not like we haven't had the chance to do better. Nobody at this point is getting punished because of innocent ignorance. But do, please, let's start at the top. The school of social work at NYU should be held accountable, of course. Because they have classes full of white students who do not know how to talk about race with people of color present.

How, then, are they going to work and change a white supremacist system?
posted by allthinky at 5:47 AM on February 17 [5 favorites]


But there are at least two students this scenario; there's also the student who was excluded because of this student's racist actions. We can't prioritize the potential growth of a racist student over the actual education of students of color. That would be an awful thing to do; it also happens to be the status quo in a lot of places. Your learning was probably made possible by a lot of patience and privilege, both of which have costs, and which costs are borne disproportionately by students and faculty of color. This kind of shit drives people out of programs.

I just wanted to really emphasize this.

I was too angry to respond to this thread yesterday because of the things hippybear had to say in here, because all this talk of learning and growth and second chances comes at a cost to the rest of us. It means white people should be given the opportunity to hurt the rest of us, take us for granted and otherwise behave like shit because oh, it's not their fault they haven't woken up yet. It's just, like, the system. Even our collective patience with him is an aspect of it: at the very least, what he had to say made me disinclined to participate in discussion, and I can't imagine I'm alone in that.

Bullshit. If a white person screws up, the first priority is to protect the people they harmed now or will harm in the future. In this case, that student caused harm to a classmate, and is positioned to have the power of life and death over vulnerable populations as a career choice. Discipline or removal is the correct choice, whatever wishy-washy bullshit the school is pretending to do, no matter how much it's just an accident of birth that they're steeped in a culture of white supremacy.

The distantly second priority is educating that white person. It's just a matter of triage: no matter how much time we spend at this, that person might always be a racist fuckwit. If they're acting like this in a graduate program specifically devoted to helping the populations they are openly prejudiced against, they're probably going to be pretty hard to reach.

Harm prevention first, reclaiming people second. Both are worthwhile pursuits, but the order of operations matters.

Moreover:

I'm interested in having conversations about how the entire culture grows to where this doesn't happen. Not so much in conversations about how we can punish people who haven't overcome the overwhelming malice that is racism in US culture at this point in time.


Step #1:
White people do not get to steer conversations about racism in the US. Sit down. Be quiet. Listen. Learn. Or leave. Do not tell us what to talk about. Do not tell us we're wrong to be angry. Do not tell me I've misunderstood you. That's the very first part of helping.

I realize that's hard, but that's the path forward. Prioritizing the concerns of white people regardless of who else is present is a pillar of white supremacy, and the first step in dealing with it is white people ceasing to make everything about them. I won't pretend that's easy. I have a hard time with it in spaces where I'm obliged to be quiet too, and as a man, there are plenty. Letting people who are more marginalized than I am vent and be angry about people like me is hard, and I don't like it either. But that is the price of being an ally: letting someone else have the wheel even if you disagree with what they're doing with it because they deserve a chance to make their own choices even if those choices are wrong. Letting people who have suffered in ways you haven't vent even if it makes you uncomfortable because they have to clamp that anger down in so many other places. That's what doing the right thing costs, and that's why it's been centuries and we still haven't gotten past this.

If it were easy, we'd be done.
posted by mordax at 10:44 AM on February 17 [31 favorites]


It's really unclear how the student who sent the email expected the Black student to respond.

If the student really wanted to 'work' on it, why not discuss it with the professor? They are being asked to facilitate a (diverse?) class and they clearly don't have the skills to do so. Why not discuss it with student health? Their advisor? Nooooo, they just decided to go the lazy route and hurt the Black student more with the weak-ass 'admitting it' bullshit. They are probably the same people who want 10 points on a test just for remembering to write their name at the top of the test.

It seems like the student who sent the email was just trying to absolve themselves of their guilt. So it's not just their racism, it's their laziness, that offends. This person seems to have no problem solving skills AT ALL. Their inability to assess the situation, correctly identify the problem, or generate and implement proactive solutions is astounding. What kind of mediocrity is NYU letting in these days?

If this is part of their definition of 'working on it', it's not working very well, is it?

As as for the 'leadership' - fuck their 'deeply sorry' bullshit; they need to be refunding the Black student their tuition for the quarter, because he's paid good money for a defective product.
posted by anitanita at 10:51 AM on February 17 [8 favorites]


White people making excuses for, holding the door open for other white people, arguing for education over penalty for other white people, and other white on white privilege construction, maintenance, and reinforcement is how we stay where we are and fail to make progress.

If we want to make progress, we have to do the hard work of being progressive, of doing progressive work in social justice, civil rights, equity and equal opportunity.

This is what it boils down to. You want to wear the badge of being a progressive white person? Make. Fucking. Progress. Let white people take penalties for being jackasses. Let them learn the hard way, because every time we make exceptions for white people cluelessly hurting people of color, we are not making progress and it is not just.
posted by kalessin at 11:01 AM on February 17 [7 favorites]


White people getting penalized for being racist isn't even progress. It's just accountability. It's like if you break my arm and then I get money for surgery, that's not actually progress.
posted by yaymukund at 3:41 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]


What if you never used to get money for surgery until recently?
posted by uosuaq at 3:47 PM on February 17


So I'm still out the money for my past surgeries? This example keeps getting worse!
posted by yaymukund at 4:00 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]


Do I need to break this down? If you never got money in the past, but something changes so that you do...I would consider that progress. As in, the situation has improved.
posted by uosuaq at 4:05 PM on February 17


The school of social work at NYU [... has] classes full of white students who do not know how to talk about race with people of color present.

Also, apparently they didn't know this until now. I presume the school is expected to turn out graduates who can engage with people of all backgrounds, which means the faculty has been oblivious to a giant great big hole in their curriculum.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:20 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]


uosuaq, accountability is only "progress" if you cannot conceive of a world without racism.

Here's a completely accurate historical timeline:

1. No racism
2. Racism
3. Racism + Accountability

If you ignore 1, then 2→3 sure looks like "progress." But it isn't.
posted by yaymukund at 4:31 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]




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