Brooke said a Tisch Drama professor instructed her to add stereotypical mannerisms to her monologue portrayal of a black man during her first year. Brooke refused because she said that the historical figure the monologue was based on did not behave in such a way. As Brooke was leaving for the day, her teacher called after her to say that Brooke should “bring a do-rag next time.”
“He should have said, ‘I don’t know about this piece so why don’t I do a little bit of research and get back to you so that I can better educate you,’” Brooke said. “Instead, he directed me based off of his own prejudices of how a black gang leader should act and look like.”
According to two anonymous professors, there was one mandatory Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training for Tisch Drama faculty which lasted about an hour and a half. The Center for Multicultural Education and Programs referred questions about the trainings to NYU Public Affairs which declined to comment.
“There is still plenty of white, cisgendered professors who are still not well-versed in issues of equity and inclusion who need more training and unfortunately don’t even know that they are committing microaggressions and macroaggressions,” the anonymous Drama professor said. “[Polendo] has taken this topic on wholeheartedly, and he is very much committed to changing the culture at Tisch so that it is an inclusive, diverse and equitable environment.”
Tamara said that the training thus far does not seem evident in some of her interactions with her Drama teachers.
“I just find myself often — and the students around me — having conversations with professors on how to conduct themselves around us,” Tamara said. “It just seems like they haven’t been trained in that they don’t know how to interact with LGBTQ+ students, they don’t know how to interact around black students or anyone not white — they kind of just don’t know how to approach us.”
Student interactions can be microaggressive as well, according to Tisch Drama senior Anna.
“When I got here, what surprised me was the things I encountered in regards to race, class and misogyny,” Anna said. “From students coming up to you and feeling your hair without asking or students saying ‘oh, you’re not like other black people,’ to even being called n-word by an international NYU student.”
Polendo said the CMEP trainings will play a larger role in the community in the next year and that he also plans to establish an entry course for new teachers and new students.
“Our students, and our faculty, are coming from so many different frameworks and points of view,” Polendo said. “If we can establish a baseline, then the conversation can keep moving forward.”