Sternies talk ‘anti-Stern bias’ at town hall

Stern’s dean of undergraduate studies addressed how the broader NYU community “looks down” upon the prestigious business school and its resources. “We’re better than the rest,” he said.


Tori Morales

Robert Whitelaw, the dean of undergraduate studies at the Stern School of Business, speaks at the Stern town hall. (Tori Morales for WSN)

Tori Morales, Deputy News Editor

The undergraduate dean at the Stern School of Business commiserated with dozens of students about “negative assumptions” others have of the school at a town hall held by its student council on Tuesday. The dean, Robert Whitelaw, highlighted instances of when university leadership — including President Andrew Hamilton — made jokes about Stern students.

“If I started making jokes about the Gallatin students, they would rightly think that was totally inappropriate,” Whitelaw said. “We talk about the student experience, and it’s stuff we’ve heard before. It comes from the top.”

At the town hall, students were prompted to discuss questions including “Have you ever felt negatively judged by anyone outside our school for attending Stern?” and “Do you feel that Stern has a negative stigma amongst other NYU students? If so, what do you think is the cause?”

In a newsletter announcing the town hall, the student council promised to discuss “anti-Stern bias,” which they claimed comes primarily from jokes on social media. Stern students have been the butt of jokes for years, with popular meme pages such as the Instagram account @nyuaffirmations calling them “sellouts,” and Reddit posts asking if Stern students are “really that bad.” 

The author of the Reddit post received some comments assuring them that Stern students are just like any other student, though other commenters called them “snakes” and said that “the men have inferiority complexes.” The undergraduate student council president, Sanemi Nair, said that the memes have allowed the stereotypes to gain popularity among the student body. According to Nair, negative perceptions of Stern students have the potential to do real harm.

“It gets to a level where students feel uncomfortable with the career that they’re pursuing,” Nair said. “People don’t need that extra sense of judgment toward their career. That can cause anxiety, and mental health is a big issue, no matter what school you’re in.”

Whitelaw attributed some of the Stern antagonism to jealousy over the resources offered to Stern students. He said that Stern faculty are paid more on average than those at other undergraduate schools and students have access to more expensive facilities. He added that he received criticism from deans of other schools due to specific perks offered to Stern students, including exclusive study lounges and trips.

“We know we’re better than the rest of the university, so there is tension there,” Whitelaw said. “I very much would like us to have a very good relationship with the university, but we do feel this tension.”

Contact Tori Morales at [email protected].