After a first-year graduate student’s racist experience went viral on Twitter, Silver School of Social Work sent out a statement acknowledging institutional racism at the school and describing broad measures it will take to address the issue.
Shahem Mclaurin was in Paris and asked his classmates if he could FaceTime into a class on the Washington Square campus he was going to miss. Everyone refused, with one student saying they felt more comfortable without a “black presence” in the class.
His tweet about the experience led to scrutiny of Silver’s attitude towards racial discrimination in the classroom.
Silver released a statement on Friday condemning the email sent to Mclaurin and promising to further address the issue of institutional racism within the school.
“No student should experience racism or otherwise be made to feel unwelcome here at NYU Silver,” the statement reads. “It is antithetical to our School and the social work profession.”
A petition endorsed by several student groups circulated social media, calling for a meeting among Silver affinity groups and administrators to develop solutions that address instances of racial discrimination within the school.
“We can begin to both heal our community and more effectively educate students on important, self-reflective points such as white fragility and white supremacy,” the letter said.
In the statement, Silver said they reached out to Mclaurin and the other student involved in the incident. Both students have “indicated their desire to resolve issues in the class.” Silver also said that by the end of next week their social justice committee — comprised of faculty, students and staff — will update the community on progress made on support resources and initiatives for students.
The statement also references an outside consultant the school hired to help with the process.
“The School has already secured an external consultant to aid us in our work; his first visit with us will be in late February,” the statement reads.
The response seems to address many of the potential concerns of students, although Mclaurin tweeted that the initial draft was vastly different and that he helped to edit the statement.
“I corrected a lot of the information they intended to put in the press release because it was for the most part incorrect,” Mclaurin said in a tweet. “I discussed a list of changes for the program.”
Email Meghna Maharishi and Victor Porcelli at [email protected]